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Canada accepts people as refugees if they have a well-founded fear of persecution on certain grounds. These grounds are race, religion, nationality, political opinion and being member of a particular social group. Recognized social groups include Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) and HIV+ people. Political opinion can also include the work of LGBT activists and HIV activists. It is possible to claim well-founded fear of persecution on multiple grounds. There have been successful claims made in Canada by LGBT and HIV+ people who are afraid to return to their country because of fear of persecution.

There are 2 ways to claim refugee status.

  • In Canada or at a port of entry
  • Outside Canada, at a Canadian embassy, consulate, or High Commission that is outside your own country
Making Refugee Claims in Canada

A person who is in Canada as a temporary resident (visitor, student, worker) can apply at the Canada Immigration Office closest to where they live.

If a person arrives at a Canadian Port of Entry and makes a claim, Immigration will first make sure the person is eligible to make such an application. Be prepared to answer questions about your background and the reasons you left your country. Answer all questions fully and truthfully. You will not be allowed to have a lawyer at your eligibility interview.

Do not destroy any travel or identity documents before you make your refugee claim. Immigration will seize these documents when you make your claim. You can request Immigration provides you with a certified copy of any documents they seize.

One thing that makes someone NOT eligible is passing through what is called a Safe Third Country. In this case, they must make a claim for asylum/refugee status in that country. At the moment there is no safe third country. However, soon the United States will be considered a safe third country. There is an agreement between Canada and the US that will make each country a Safe Third Country. It will come into effect in 2004,

Right now it is possible to arrive at a border crossing with the USA and make an application to enter Canada as a Refugee Claimant. It is also possible to pass through a US airport in transit and make a refugee claim in Canada. However, once the Safe Third Country Agreement comes into effect people will not be able to make a claim in Canada if they first arrive in the US. This includes arriving at an airport in transit.

For people who make a refugee claim there will be forms to complete with personal information. After some months, there will be a hearing that will decide if the person meets the definition of a refugee or a person in need of protection. You can get more information about the forms and the hearing by reading the Immigration & Refugee Board web site:

People who make refugee claims in Canada may be able to get support:

  • financial assistance to support themselves before they can work.
  • legal aid to pay for a lawyer who can represent them

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Making Refugee Claims Outside of Canada

People making refugee claims outside of Canada must apply to a Canadian Visa office outside of their own country.

To make a refugee claim you must

  • meet the definition of a refugee or person in need of protection.
  • have a referral from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHRC) or An undertaking for private sponsorship
    an application submitted without one of these documents will be considered incomplete and be returned to the applicant.
  • make an application for a Permanent Residence visa. An immigration officer will review the claim and decide if the applicant is refugee or a person in need of protection.
Source Country Class

In a few specific countries, people can apply to come to Canada while still in their own country. If you live in these countries, you can apply and do not need the referral from UNHRC or a private sponsorship. You can make the application directly to the visa office serving that country. You must be a convention refugee or a person in need of protection.

Currently these countries are:

Location of Canadian Consulate
DR Congo Abidjan, Cote D'lvoire
Sudan Cairo, Egypt
El Salvador Guatemala City, Guatemala
Guatemala Guatemala City, Guatemala
Colombia Bogota, Colombia
Sierra Leone Accra, Ghana
Country of Asylum Class

The Country of Asylum class includes people who are outside their country of citizenship or habitual residence. Refugees in this class are seriously and personally affected by:

  • civil war;
  • armed conflict; or
  • massive violations of human rights.

Individuals selected under this class must be privately sponsored or have adequate financial means to support themselves and their dependents.

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Last update: Nov. 15, 2003

Disclaimer and Copyrights information

This page describes ways to make refugee claims.
Making Refugee Claims in Canada
Making Refugee Claims Outside of Canada
Source Country Class
Country of Asylum Class

Port of Entry is any border crossing, an airport or a port where a person can officially enter Canada.