Attending an alternative dispute resolution conference at the Immigration Appeal Division

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What is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) conference?

An alternative dispute resolution (ADR) conference is a meeting called by the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) when it believes there is a chance that your appeal could be resolved without an oral hearing. The goal is to try to resolve your appeal simply, quickly, and fairly. If the conference is successful, a hearing will not be needed.

The participants in the conference include:

  • You, and your counsel, if you have one;
  • An official from the Canada Border Services Agency, called the Minister’s Counsel, who represents the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) or the Minister of Public Safety; and,
  • An Early Resolution Officer (ERO) or member from the IAD, who is a neutral and unbiased facilitator of the conference.

Not all appeals are selected for ADR. If your appeal is selected, you will receive a Notice to Appear. This notice tells you when and where your conference will be.

How is an ADR conference different from a hearing?

An ADR conference is an informal meeting. There is no IAD decision-maker present to decide the appeal like at a hearing. It is an opportunity for you and the Minister’s Counsel to try to reach an agreement to resolve the appeal without having to argue the case at an oral hearing. The IAD’s role is simply to facilitate that discussion.

At an ADR conference, each party (that is, you and the Minister’s counsel) says why the appeal should be allowed or not. You will be asked questions. The ADR conference will take about one hour, and usually only you are questioned. Hearings usually take three hours or more, often more than one witness is questioned, and it can take longer to get a date for a hearing. Also, an IAD member holds the hearing and makes a final decision according to the evidence presented at the hearing.

How are appeals selected for an ADR?

The IAD selects appeals for ADR by reviewing the files. An appeal is considered suitable for ADR if the IAD believes there is a chance:

  • the Minister’s Counsel may agree that your appeal should be allowed; or
  • you will choose to withdraw the appeal after having a better understanding of your chance of winning your case at a hearing.

Before deciding to select an appeal for ADR, the IAD may contact you by telephone or in writing to obtain additional information. In some cases, the IAD may also contact the Minister’s Counsel to discuss whether an appeal is suitable for ADR. In the end, the IAD will decide if an appeal should be sent to an ADR conference or be scheduled for a hearing.

Opting-in to ADR

Either you or the Minister’s Counsel can also request an ADR conference. This is called “opting-in”, and it may be useful if you have new and important information to share that was not available when you first submitted your appeal. To opt-in to ADR, you must make a written request stating why you believe your appeal might be resolved at an ADR conference and you must provide supporting information or documents. Your request must also be sent to the Minister’s Counsel. The IAD will review your request and decide if your appeal should be included in the ADR process.

Opting-out of an ADR

When the IAD decides to hold an ADR for an appeal, either you or the Minister’s Counsel can request to not participate in the ADR process if it is believed there is little chance of resolution. The request must explain why the appeal is not appropriate for ADR and it must be provided to the other party.

Do I need a lawyer, paralegal, notary or immigration consultant?

This guide will help you to understand the ADR process. It is not legal advice. Immigration appeals can be quite complex. Think about whether you need someone to represent you.

You have the right to be represented, at your own expense. This representative is called your counsel. If your counsel charges a fee or any other form of payment, they must be a member in good standing of one of the following Canadian organizations:

  • a provincial law society
  • the Chambre des notaires du Québec
  • the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC​).

This rule applies even if you are making an appeal from outside of Canada. You or your counsel must tell the IAD what professional organization your counsel belongs to and give their membership identification number.

Using an unpaid representative as your counsel

Your counsel does not have to be a paid lawyer, paralegal, notary or immigration consultant. They could be an unpaid friend, relative, or trusted member of your community (inside or outside Canada). You must tell the IAD who your unpaid representative is by filling out a form called Notice of Representation without a Fee or Other Consideration.

No matter who represents you, they must be available and prepared to go ahead on the date of your ADR conference.

Do I have to attend in person?

You can attend either in person, by videoconference or by phone at the scheduled time. Since ADR is informal, it is recommended that you attend in person, if possible. To attend by telephone or videoconference, you must notify the IAD at least 1​0 days before the conference.

How should I prepare for my alternative dispute resolution conference?

You should prepare for your ADR conference ahead of time. Review the refusal letter and the appeal record, including any notes from the interview (if any) with the immigration officer. Be prepared to explain why you think your appeal should be allowed. This could include addressing any mistakes you believe were made in deciding your case or providing information to clarify or explain the issues identified by the immigration officer in the refusal letter and immigration officer’s notes. You can explain how the refusal decision impacts you and your family and any other special circumstances in your case.

Providing documents

Documents can be very important in making your case and helping you succeed at your ADR conference. If you have not already provided documents for your appeal or have more to provide, you must provide them at least 10 days before the ADR conference. There are a number of rules you need to follow when preparing and disclosing documents. Find out what you need to do in the guide on Preparing and disclosing documents before the hearing.

The types of documents that can help your appeal depend on the type of refusal. The guide Preparing your case for the IAD explains some of the more common types of refusals and what type of information might be helpful to support your appeal. If your refusal is different to those in the guide, you can speak to the ERO assigned to your ADR conference to get some general guidance on how to prepare.

Can I have witnesses at my conference?

Generally, only you will be questioned at the ADR conference. Because ADR conferences are scheduled for one hour, there is not enough time to question other witnesses.

What if I need an interpreter?

If you need an interpreter and have not already requested one, you must write to the IAD at least 10 days before the date of the conference. Explain what language and dialect you need. The IAD will provide an interpreter at no cost to you.

What if I am a Vulnerable Person?

Some people may face particular difficulty and require special consideration in the handling of their case because they have gone through traumatic experiences, have a physical or mental illness or may require assistance because of their age. Like all persons appearing before the Board, vulnerable persons are treated with sensitivity and respect, but they also have their cases processed taking into account their specific situations.

If you or your counsel think that you may be a vulnerable person, you should contact the office of the IAD in your region. As a vulnerable person you may receive administrative accommodations including changes in procedures. In such a case, the Board follows the “Chairperson Guideline 8: Procedures With Respect to Vulnerable Persons Appearing Before the IRB”.

What if I need a Designated Representative?

If you are under 18 years of age or if you are over 18 but are not able to understand what your ADR is about, then you or your counsel must tell the IAD. The IAD can then select a designated representative for you. A designated representative is not the same as a counsel. A designated representative is a person who is responsible for making decisions in your best interests and for explaining the ADR process to you. The Designated Representative’s Guide explains their role in greater detail.

What will happen at the conference?

  1. The ERO will open the meeting by explaining the roles of the participants and the ADR conference process.
  2. The ERO will ask you questions about your case.

    Be prepared to explain why you think the appeal should be settled in your favour.
    Make sure that you know and understand what the reasons for the refusal are. If you do not understand the refusal, you can call the ERO before the conference.

  3. The Minister’s Counsel will ask you questions.
  4. You can make some final remarks or clarify any point relevant to your case. If you have counsel, they will have the opportunity to ask you some clarifying questions.
  5. The ERO will meet privately with the Minister’s Counsel to discuss whether the appeal can be resolved without an oral hearing. At your request, you can also meet privately with the ERO. During the private meetings, the ERO may also provide an opinion on the chances of the appeal succeeding at a hearing.
  6. The Minister’s Counsel will give their recommendation.

What happens if the Minister’s recommendation is in my favour?

  1. The ERO will prepare a Summary of Agreement giving some brief reasons for the agreement.
  2. Both you and the Minister’s Counsel will review the agreement.
  3. You, your counsel if you have one, and the Minister’s Counsel will sign the agreement.
  4. After the conference, a Member of the IAD will approve the agreement if he or she is satisfied with the recommendation.
  5. You will receive a final decision allowing your appeal.

What happens if the recommended outcome is not in my favour?

  1. The Minister’s Counsel will briefly give their reasons and then leave the conference.
  2. You and your counsel will have to decide whether to withdraw your appeal or proceed to an oral hearing. The ERO will provide you some information to consider, including a neutral assessment of the chances your appeal will succeed at an oral hearing.
  3. If you choose to go ahead with a hearing, the ERO will explain the hearing process including the approximate wait time for your hearing date.

If I decide to go ahead with my appeal, can anything from the ADR conference be used against me?

No. The ADR process is confidential. The ERO and the Minister’s Counsel cannot share information from your conference with any Member of the IAD who might be hearing your appeal, unless:

  • You agree to share the information or
  • They can obtain the information independently (for example, it is already publicly available) or
  • The information relates to an offence under immigration legislation or
  • The information relates to a breach of the IAD rules of practice.

At the end of the conference, the ERO will ask you if you would like the documents you provided for the ADR to remain on the file for your hearing. If you do not agree, the documents will be removed from your file.

More questions?

There are a number of documents and links to information that can help you in understanding the appeal process in the section “Filing an immigration appeal”. You can also contact the IAD using the contact information that appears on our website or in our letters to you. However, keep in mind that IAD staff cannot give you legal advice – that is the role of counsel.