Making a claim for refugee protection? Here’s what you should know

You can be granted refugee protection in Canada if you meet the definition of a Convention refugee (having a well-founded fear of persecution) or if you are a person in need of protection (facing a danger of torture, a risk to life or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if you return to your country of nationality).

If you make your claim for refugee protection from within Canada, the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) is responsible for determining if you are in need of Canada's protection. Before this can happen, you must first make a claim, and if you are eligible, you will be referred to the RPD for determination.

Once referred, a decision-maker (known as a “member") at the RPD will consider the information you provide, your testimony at a hearing and other related evidence to decide if you qualify for refugee protection.

If you submitted your claim before December 15, 2012, please visit the Legacy Task Force page.

If you submitted your claim on or after December 15, 2012, please read the information below and/or consult the Claimant's Kit.

Getting your claim referred

The process for claiming refugee protection from within Canada begins by speaking to an officer at any port of entry when you arrive at the Canadian border or at an inland office after you have entered the country. You must first speak with an officer from either the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) who will assess whether your refugee claim is eligible to be sent (“referred") to the RPD for determination.

If your claim for refugee protection is referred to the RPD, the referring officer will provide you with a Confirmation of Referral indicating that your claim was referred for determination. Along with a Confirmation of Referral, the referring officer will provide you with a copy of Important Instructions for Refugee Claimants as well as the Claimant's Guide. These three documents will provide you with necessary information related to your claim. It is important that you review and take note of this information.

At a later date, the RPD will send you a Notice to Appear (NTA) for a hearing that will tell you when and where your claim will be heard. If your contact information changes, you must immediately inform the IRB and IRCC and/or the CBSA of the changes in writing. If the RPD is unable to reach you, your claim may be declared abandoned. If your claim is declared abandoned, you will not be allowed to continue with your claim or make another claim in the future.

Submitting documents to support your claim

To avoid unnecessary delays, it is important to ensure that you submit all the required documentation and provide everything that has been requested of you.

Basis of Claim Form

Every refugee protection claimant is required to provide a Basis of Claim Form (BOC Form). In your BOC Form, you will present your claim by providing details about who you are and why you are seeking protection in Canada. When deciding your claim, the RPD member will consider the information provided in your BOC Form, together with your testimony at the hearing, to render a decision on your claim. At your hearing, the member may ask you questions about anything you have included, or not included, in your BOC Form.

  • If you made your claim at a port of entry and it was deemed eligible and referred, then you must provide your completed BOC Form to the RPD no later than 15 days after the date your claim was referred.
  • If you made your claim at an inland office, then you were required to submit the completed BOC Form to the officer before the eligibility of your claims was assessed.

If you do not provide your completed BOC Form on time, the RPD may declare that your claim has been abandoned. This means that your claim will not be heard. Before declaring your claim abandoned, the RPD will hold a special hearing for abandonment no later than five working days after your BOC Form was due. At this special hearing, you will have to explain why you could not provide a completed BOC Form on time and why the RPD should continue with your claim. The date for this special hearing will appear in the “Special Hearing date if the Basis of Claim Form is not received on time" section of the Confirmation of Referral.

Relevant evidence

In addition to your BOC Form, when possible, you should also submit other documents to support your claim. This could include identity documents, evidence of human rights conditions in your country or any other relevant evidence. Copies of these additional documents and your list of witnesses (if you plan on having any) must be received by the RPD at least 10 days before your hearing; however it is best for you to send your documents to the RPD as soon as you get them.

Please consult the page on Gathering and submitting evidence for some examples of these types of evidence, as well as for information on how to submit this evidence to the RPD.

Attending your hearing

Attending your hearing usually takes half a day. Your hearing will take place in private in order to protect you and your family. There is usually a short break about halfway through the hearing.

When your claim is ready to be heard, the RPD will send you an NTA for a hearing by mail. On the NTA, there are two dates:

  • The first date is the date of your hearing. The NTA will tell you where to go, the date of your hearing, the time your hearing will start and the time you must arrive. Unless the RPD tells you to do something else, you must go to your hearing on the date given. Only the RPD can change the date or time of your hearing and it will only do so if there are exceptional circumstances.
  • The second date on your NTA is for a special hearing. In the event that you do not attend your hearing, you must appear at your special hearing to explain why you were not able to attend your hearing and why your claim should not be declared abandoned.

The RPD primarily schedules hearings in the order in which claims are received, but also balances this approach with the prioritization of certain claims to achieve case efficiencies or to ensure program integrity. As of April 1, 2019, the projected wait time for claims for refugee protection before the RPD is approximately 21 months from the date of referral. Some refugee protection claimants will wait a shorter amount of time while others will wait longer.

Frequently asked questions

Will an interpreter be provided for me?

The RPD will provide an interpreter at your hearing at no cost to you. If you need an interpreter, you must write the language and dialect you want to use in the “Language and Interpreter" section of your BOC Form. The interpretation will be provided between the language and dialect you choose and the official language of Canada (English or French) you choose in the same section of your BOC Form.

Interpreters must keep your personal information confidential. If at any time during the hearing you have trouble understanding the interpreter, tell the member immediately.

Do my children need to come to the hearing?

If your children are also claiming refugee protection and are 12 years of age or older, they must come to the hearing. Young children under the age of 12 who are accompanied by an adult making a refugee protection claim will not be required to appear before the RPD unless the presiding member requires their attendance. When a member determines that it is necessary for a young claimant to attend the hearing, the claimant and their designated representative will be informed at the earliest possible opportunity so families can make the necessary arrangements. For more information about children and hearings, please see the Claimant's Kit.

Can I bring witnesses?

You may bring witnesses to your hearing if you think this will help your claim. A witness is a person who knows about your claim and can provide information that will help a member make a decision. Witnesses must be ready to answer questions about the information they provide at your hearing (this is called testifying or giving testimony). For more information about bringing witnesses to your hearing, please see the Claimant's Kit.

I understand that you are also scheduling short hearings and have an expedited process. How can I be included in those?

The RPD has a process under its expedited policy that can be used in specific circumstances to accept a claim for refugee protection without a hearing. This process allows RPD members to grant refugee protection after a review of the evidence in the file, which includes confirmation of security screening, the Basis of Claim Form, identity documents, as well as other relevant evidence and submissions.

The short hearing process is an efficiency measure that is designed to match case complexity with the time scheduled for the hearing. It is intended primarily for straightforward claims that can be resolved with a shorter hearing; this allows for more claims to be scheduled.

You cannot make a request to have a short hearing or to have your case included in the expedited process. Every case is assessed on its own merits (based on the specific facts of the case) and the same criteria are applied for each claim. The RPD decides the hearing length or type for each claim based on the details in the file.