Attending a Hearing at the Immigration Appeal Division

​​​​The purpose of this guide is to provide answers to commonly asked questions that will help you prepare for your hearing at the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD). You can also observe a real Immigration Appeal hearing to see how the hearing process works. You may contact the regional IAD office in your area for dates, times and locations of upcoming hearings.

On this page​

What is the Immigration and Refugee Board?

The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB or Board) is an independent tribunal. The section of the Board that hears immigration appeals is called the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD).

The IAD is not part of Canada’s immigration department, which is called Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (formerly Citizenship and Immigration Canada). It is also not part of the Canada Border Services Agency or Public Safety Canada. The IAD makes independent decisions on appeals based on evidence and the law.

For more information, read the “About the Board” section.

As the person making the appeal, you are called the appellant. The person opposing your appeal can be the Minister of IRCC or the Minister of Public Safety, depending on what your appeal is about. The Minister is called the respondent. The Minister is represented by a counsel who comes from the Canada Border Services Agency, and is called the Minister’s Counsel. A Member of the IAD hears your appeal and makes a decision.

When the IAD is ready to hear your appeal, you receive a Notice to Appear. This notice tells you when and where your hearing will be. If you cannot appear on that date, or you are not ready to present your case, you must contact the Board immediately. See What happens if the hearing date is set but I cannot attend?

When you are appealing, you are the one who has to prove that the decision was wrong. You can use evidence to prove your case. Your evidence comes from you or your authorized representative, from your witnesses, and from the documents you submit. The Minister’s Counsel can also present evidence, ask questions to you, your witnesses and other witnesses, and make arguments against your appeal.

You need to try to show how the law and evidence support your case. The Minister’s Counsel will try to show how the law and evidence do not support your case. You can access all of Canada’s immigration law, regulations, the IAD rules of practice and other legal references on the website of the Board.

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

This guide will help you to understand the process of an appeal hearing. It is not legal advice. We try to make our process as simple as possible so that people without legal training can understand it. Still, an immigration appeal hearing can be quite complex. For this reason, we recommend that you hire an authorized representative if you can afford to do so.

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

“Good standing” means they are not suspended from practicing. Where this is the case, your counsel is also referred to as your “authorized representative”. You can use the links above to look up your counsel’s name or call their professional organization to make sure that they are in good standing.

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 hearing.

Keep all contact information up to date

You must make sure that the IAD and the Minister’s Counsel have up-to-date contact information for your counsel (paid or unpaid). Your counsel will receive copies of all letters to you about your appeal.

Be sure to keep your own contact information up to date as well.

Respond to all contact from the IAD

If you or your counsel do not respond to letters, emails, or phone calls, the IAD can dismiss your appeal or declare it “abandoned”. This would mean that your appeal is over and the original decision that you are challenging stands. This is why it is so important for you to keep contact information up to date.

Who will be at my appeal hearing?

The Member who will decide your appeal will be at the front of the hearing room or connected to the hearing room by videoconference. You and your counsel, if you have one, will be at a table. The Minister’s Counsel will also be there.

Both you and the Minister’s Counsel can bring witnesses to testify (give evidence) at the hearing.

You can ask for an interpreter to be in the hearing room for you or any of your witnesses. The IAD provides the interpreter.

Members of the public are also allowed to attend immigration appeal hearings, unless a confidentiality order is applied for and obtained by a party to the appeal.

Where will my appeal hearing take place?

Appeal hearings take place at many locations across Canada. Your Notice to Appear tells you exactly where your hearing will be held.

Both you and your counsel (if any) must attend the hearing. If you, your counsel, or your witnesses have strong reasons for being unable to attend in person, contact the IAD to arrange to attend by videoconference or telephone. You will find the contact information of the regional office assigned to your case in the letters you have received from the IAD.

If you fail to attend the hearing, the IAD can dismiss your appeal or declare it “abandoned”. That means your appeal is over and the original decision that you are challenging stands.

​What if I am appealing from outside Canada?

Attending by videoconference or telephone

Notice of suspension

Please note that the use of videoconferencing to connect witnesses remotely to hearings being held on IAD premises has been suspended as a result of hearing room modifications in response to the COVID-19 situation. Witnesses will instead be connected by teleconference.

For virtual hearings that are held using Microsoft Teams, witnesses may join the hearing by videoconference or by teleconference using Microsoft Teams.

Videoconference is the IAD’s default method for appellants and parties to participate in a hearing if they are not able to attend in person. When you receive your Notice to Appear, the IAD asks you which application you would like to use.

If the videoconference service is not available or not suitable for your case, you will attend the hearing by telephone.

You must give the IAD the phone number where you will be, in case the videoconference service fails. Landlines tend to be more stable than cellphones. If you have access to a landline, we recommend that you give us that number.

Check to make sure you have the correct time for the region in Canada where the hearing takes place because the time difference can vary throughout the year. It is up to you to check. Make sure that you are ready to answer the call 30 minutes before the scheduled start of your hearing.

When will my appeal hearing take place?

If you have counsel, they will work with the IAD to set a hearing date.

If you are representing yourself, you will receive a notice from the IAD to come to a meeting called a scheduling conference. You will meet with an Early Resolution Officer (ERO), who is an employee of the IAD trained in mediation. An ERO’s role is to find practical and efficient ways to resolve appeals or move them forward towards a conclusion. You must be at your scheduling conference on the date and at the time stated in the notice. The scheduling conference can take place either in person or by telephone, depending on what is stated in the notice. An ERO will ask questions about your appeal. If the officer is sure that your case is ready to be scheduled, they will give you a date and time for your hearing.

If you are outside the country and do not have counsel in Canada, the IAD will contact you by telephone, email, or regular mail. They may work with you to arrange a hearing date. Or they may just set the date and inform you in writing.

When you or your counsel agree to a hearing date, you must be sure that you have prepared your case and are ready to go ahead on that date and at that time. This is true even if you choose your counsel after the hearing date is set.

What happens if the hearing date is set but I cannot attend?

Both you and your counsel must attend the appeal hearing, either in person, by videoconference or telephone.

If you or your counsel cannot attend, you can ask in writing to change the date or time of your hearing. You must have very good reasons or the IAD will not allow you to change the date or time.

How to ask for a change

  1. Contact the IAD to find out when your appeal could be scheduled and write down the dates.
  2. Write a letter to the IAD. State your appeal file number at the top of your letter.
  3. Explain why you need to change the date or time of your hearing. In preparing your explanation, you may wish to review the document Chairperson’s Guideline 6: Scheduling and Changing the Date or Time of a Proceeding, as it provides useful information on the process of changing the date or time of a hearing.
  4. Give at least six new dates when you are available for your hearing. The dates must correspond to when the IAD has availability (see bullet 1).
  5. Send your letter to the IAD with a copy sent to the Minister’s Counsel. You will find their address in the letters you have received from the IAD. Include a written statement of how and when you sent a copy to the Minister’s Counsel.

What happens if your request is denied

If the IAD refuses your request, you must be ready to go ahead with your appeal hearing on the scheduled date and time. If you do not appear, either in person, by videoconference, by phone or other permitted methods, your appeal may be dismissed or declared “abandoned”. This would mean that your appeal is over and the original decision that you are challenging stands.

If you do not receive a decision about your request, or if the IAD receives your letter two working days or less before the scheduled hearing date, the IAD will go ahead with your scheduled hearing. At the beginning of that hearing, you can ask the Member hearing your appeal for a change in the date or time. But your request might not be granted, so you should be prepared to go ahead with the hearing on that day if your request is denied. That means you have to bring all your documents and witnesses with you, even if you don’t want the hearing to go ahead on that day.

How should I prepare for my hearing?

Receiving the appeal record

After you have submitted your notice of appeal, the Minister’s Counsel or the Immigration Division will send you the appeal record. This record is composed of the documents that were used to make the decision that you are challenging.

Preparing and disclosing documents before the hearing

Documents can be very important in making your case. If they are relevant to what has to be decided, they could help you succeed. The providing of documents is called “disclosure”. Here is a step-by-step guide to the rules that you should follow in preparing and disclosing documents in your appeal. They are set out in Rules 28 to 35 of the IAD rules of practice.

Step 1: Translating documents

Your documents must be in either English or French. If you have a document that is not in English or French, then you must send:

  • a copy of the original
  • a translation of the document into English or French
  • a translator’s declaration.

    The person who translated the document must sign and date a statement that they accurately translated the entire document from the language in which it was written into English or French.

    The translator cannot be someone who has an interest in the outcome of the appeal. For example, that means your documents cannot be translated by yourself or a friend of yours or a relative.

Step 2: Printing or photocopying documents

  • You must print or photocopy your documents on one side only on 21.5 cm. by 28 cm. (8 ½ x 11 inches) paper.
  • Photographs have to be photocopied.
  • All paper documents must be typewritten, but you do not need to type letters that were handwritten.

Step 3: Organizing your package of documents

  • You must number the pages of each document.
  • If there is more than one document, give each document a number (1, 2, 3, 4…).
  • You must provide a list of the documents you are disclosing. This list should describe each document and give its number.
  • You must include your IAD file number and UCI on the first page of your package of documents.

Step 4: Making copies of documents

  • You must make two copies of each document you will disclose. That includes copies of non-paper documents, such as videos on DVD. You should make an extra copy of your numbered documents for yourself.

Step 5: Sending documents to the Minister’s Counsel

  • You have to send one copy to the Minister’s Counsel at the Canada Border Services Agency by: regular or registered mail, fax (no more than 20 pages), courier, email or in-person delivery.
  • The letters you receive from the IAD will give you the address for sending documents to the office of the Minister’s Counsel.

Step 6: Sending documents to the IAD

  • You have to send one copy to the IAD by: regular or registered mail, fax (no more than 20 pages), courier or in-person delivery.
  • When you send your documents to the IAD, you must include a written statement saying how and when you provided the documents to the Minister’s Counsel. If you send more than one document, you can write your statement on your list of documents.

    For example: “I submitted these documents to the Minister’s Counsel at [address] on [date] by [delivery method]”.

  • If you wish to communicate and disclose your documents by email, please refer to the Practice Notice.

Step 7: Bringing the original copies to the hearing

  • Bring the original copies of your documents to the hearing if you or your counsel are attending in person.

Deadline

The Minister’s Counsel and the IAD must receive your documents no later than 20 days before the hearing or by the due date indicated in any letter from the IAD requesting documents.

If you are mailing documents from outside Canada, allow an extra 20 days for delivery time anywhere in Canada.

Important

If you disclose documents late or if you do not follow the disclosure rules, then you cannot use those documents at the hearing unless the Member who is hearing your appeal allows it.

Responding to additional documents disclosed by the Minister

The Minister's Counsel may also provide documents as evidence for the hearing. They must also provide them at least 20 days before the hearing. If after receiving documents provided by the Minister, you have additional documents that respond to documents that the Minister has provided and you want to use the documents at your hearing, then you have to provide them no later than 10 days before the hearing.

Medical documents

Medical documents provided in an appeal based on inadmissibility on health grounds must be received by the IAD and the Minister’s Counsel no later than 60 days before the hearing.

If you respond to medical documents, you have to provide your documents no later than 30 days before the hearing.

Can I have witnesses at my hearing?

You can have witnesses if you think this will help your appeal. Witnesses must be prepared to answer questions at your hearing. This is called “testifying”. Anyone who is called to testify at a hearing is a witness. For example, if you testify on your own behalf, you must be listed as a witness. If you want someone you are sponsoring to testify, they must be listed as a witness.

With your Notice to Appear, you also receive a form to fill out, called Confirmation of Hearing Needs. It helps the IAD to plan your hearing. If you wish to have witnesses testify, you must attach the following written information to your form:

  • the name of each witness
  • your relationship to the witness
  • how long the testimony will take for each witness
  • whether the witness will need an interpreter, and in what language or dialect
  • whether you want the witness to testify in person, by videoconference or by telephone.

You have to send this information to both the Minister’s Counsel and the IAD no later than 20 days before the hearing.

Expert witnesses

If the witness is an expert, such as a doctor, you must provide a report signed by the expert no later than 20 days before the hearing. The report should give their qualifications and summarize the evidence they will give at the hearing. You are responsible for any fee charged for preparing the report and any fee the expert may charge for attending the hearing.

Like all disclosure documents, the report must be in either French or English, and you must send a copy to the Minister’s Counsel.

Summoning a witness

If you want to make sure a witness appears in person, and your witness is in Canada, you can ask the IAD to issue a summons. This document directs the person to appear at the hearing. You are responsible to provide the summons to the summoned person. You also have to pay or offer to pay the summoned person their witness fees and travel expenses. You can find those details in the Federal Courts Rules.

What if I need an interpreter?

The hearing will be held in either English or French. You chose which language you preferred when you sent your notice of appeal.

If you or any of your witnesses need an interpreter, you must notify the IAD in advance. You can do this either:

When you receive your Notice to Appear, you also receive a form to fill out, called Confirmation of Hearing Needs, that includes questions about your needs for an interpreter for yourself or witnesses you are calling.

You must say what language and dialect (if any) you or your witness needs translated. The IAD will provide an interpreter in the hearing room 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 hearing is about, then you or your counsel must tell the IAD. The IAD can then appoint 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 hearing process to you. The Designated Representative’s Guide explains their role in greater detail.

What happens at the appeal hearing?

1. Remember to arrive early

Make sure that you, your counsel, and any witnesses arrive at the hearing ahead of time. You and your counsel will go into the hearing first. Your witnesses who are present in person at the hearing to testify will stay outside until they are called to testify.

2. You will testify

Generally, you as the appellant will be the first witness to testify. Before you speak, the Member will ask you to promise to tell the truth. If you wish, you can bring your own holy book to swear upon.

If you have counsel, your counsel will ask you questions related to your appeal. If you do not have counsel, you speak directly to the Member, saying what you think is important in your appeal. Or you can ask the Member to ask you questions that he or she thinks are needed to help decide your appeal. Even if you have counsel, the Member can ask you questions that he or she thinks are needed to help decide your appeal.

The Minister's Counsel will also ask you questions about the evidence you have just given and about any other documents in your appeal file.

After the Minister’s Counsel asks their questions, your counsel will have the opportunity to ask additional questions that relate to the questions that the Minister’s Counsel asked you.

3. Witnesses will testify

If there are any other witnesses, they will speak after you have. The witnesses must also promise to tell the truth.

Your counsel may question the witnesses. If you do not have counsel, you may question the witnesses yourself or ask the Member to do so. Even if you have counsel, the Member can ask your witnesses questions that he or she thinks need to be answered to help decide your appeal.

The Minister's Counsel will also be able to ask your witnesses questions.

After the Minister’s Counsel asks their questions, your counsel will have the opportunity to ask additional questions that relate to the questions that the Minister’s Counsel asked your witness.

The Minister’s Counsel can also bring witnesses to testify. You or your counsel have the right to question any witnesses brought by the Minister’s Counsel.

4. Closing arguments

After all the witnesses have finished, the Member will ask you or your counsel to make final arguments or submissions in your case. This means explaining why you think the evidence shows that the Member should allow your appeal. If your appeal is a removal order appeal, then you can explain why you think the Member should order a stay of the removal order on conditions. For more information on removal order appeals and stays, go to Removal Order Appeal Process.

The Minister's Counsel will also speak about whether they feel you have proven your case or not. The Minister’s Counsel may ask that your appeal be dismissed. Then the Member will ask you or your counsel to respond to what the Minister’s Counsel has said.

Closing arguments are usually made orally at the end of the hearing; however, sometimes the Member may require that they be given in writing after the oral hearing is finished. If this happens, you will be told how and when the closing arguments are to be provided.

The Member weighs the evidence and arguments from both sides before making a decision.

When will I know the decision?

The Member may be able to decide your appeal at the end of the hearing, and give you his or her decision right away by telling you and the Minister’s Counsel what the decision is. If that is not possible, then the decision and the reasons for the decision will be mailed to you. This usually takes no more than 60 days after the hearing ends.

More questions?

The IAD webpages contain a number of documents and links to information that can help you in understanding the appeal process and in preparing for the hearing of your appeal. You can also contact the IAD using the contact information that appears in our letters to you. However, IAD staff cannot give you legal advice – that is the role of counsel. As stated at the beginning of this guide, an immigration appeal hearing can be quite complex. If you can afford to hire an authorized representative as your counsel to represent you, we recommend that you do so.