The Asylum Application Process in Canada Explained by Hasa Attorneys

Asylum Claim and Refugee protection Immigration

Welcome to Hasa Attorneys, a distinguished immigration law firm nestled in the heart of Montreal. Specializing in immigration, we strive to guide asylum seekers through a sometimes complex process. Our dedicated team combines experience and compassion, ensuring each client receives personalized and effective legal support. In this article, we will explore the journey of asylum seekers in Canada, highlighting eligibility criteria and the various steps leading to protected person status.

Understanding Refugee Status in Canada

In Canadian and international law, a refugee is defined as someone who is outside their home country or the country they normally live in and is unable to return due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or being part of a particular social group. Refugee status in Canada is granted to those meeting that definition of a refugee. It also applies to persons in need of protection, who would face dangers such as torture, or risk to life, or cruel treatment if returned to their home country. This status offers crucial legal protection, preventing individuals from being sent back to situations where their safety and rights are at risk.

Eligibility for Refugee Status

Gaining refugee status in Canada involves a nuanced process that carefully evaluates an individual’s circumstances against specific eligibility criteria. To embark on this journey, understanding these prerequisites is vital:

  • Presence within Canada: Initiating a refugee claim mandates your presence within Canadian borders, ensuring you are not subject to any removal orders.
  • People who are not eligible:
    • Refugees must not have received protection or refugee status from another country they can return to. Those who have already been granted protected person status in Canada are ineligible. Claims made at the Canada-United States border, following the Safe Third Country Agreement, generally do not qualify.
    • Previous unsuccessful or withdrawn refugee claims in Canada or other countries can affect eligibility.

Navigating through these criteria requires a deep understanding of legal nuances and the implications of each condition. It’s not just about meeting the basic requirements but about clearly articulating the threats and persecutions faced in the country of origin, aligning with Canada’s protective stance for human rights.

The Asylum Claim

Applying for refugee status in Canada is a critical step toward protection and safety for those fleeing persecution. The process is designed to be accessible, offering two main avenues for making a claim: at a port of entry upon arrival in Canada, or from within Canada if you have already entered the country.

At a Port of Entry

Upon arrival at any Canadian port of entry—be it an airport, seaport, or land border—you are entitled to make a claim for refugee protection. This process starts with an eligibility interview conducted by an officer from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), during which you’ll complete an application package and provide necessary biometrics like fingerprints and photographs.

  • Documentation and Further Instructions:
    • Normally, you’ll fill out the provided forms on the spot. However, there may be instances where the CBSA officer schedules a future interview at the port of entry or an inland office.
    • In such cases, you’ll receive an information pamphlet, an acknowledgment of claim letter which facilitates access to the Interim Federal Health Program and other services and instructions for completing a medical exam.
  • Online Completion: In certain situations, you may be directed to complete your claim online, using the application number and interview location details provided by the officer.

After Arriving in Canada

This section outlines the steps for making a claim from within Canada, emphasizing the importance of a complete application, the online submission process, and the role of representatives in assisting with the application. Whether you’ve recently arrived or have been in the country for some time, understanding this process is key to successfully navigating the Canadian refugee claim system.

  • Complete the Application: If opting to make a claim after your arrival, a complete application is necessary, encompassing all supporting documentation and the BOC Form.
  • Online Submission: The preferred method for submitting your claim is online, where you’ll need a scanner or camera to create electronic copies of your documents and an online account for submission and status checks. If online submission is not feasible, a paper-based claim can be requested within Canada.
  • Assistance from a Representative: Should you have a representative aiding in your claim, they can assist in or directly submit the claim on your behalf.

Arguing your case

Once submitted, if deemed eligible, your claim will be referred to the Refugee Protection Division (RPD). You will receive a Refugee Protection Claimant Document and a Confirmation of Referral letter, along with the Claimant’s Guide for further steps.

Basis of Claim (BoC)

A crucial next step is submitting a completed Basis of Claim (BOC) Form for each family member within 15 days of referral​​. When applying for refugee status in Canada, articulating the foundation of your claim is pivotal. The Basis of Claim (BoC) Form is an important document that enables you to outline your background, family circumstances, and the specific reasons you’re seeking refugee protection. This form is designed to capture the essence of your claim through detailed inquiries. Key Sections of the BoC form include:

  • Who You Are: This initial section is where you provide essential personal details such as your date of birth, gender, nationality, religion, and languages spoken. This foundational information sets the stage for understanding your unique identity and background.
  • Details About Your Claim & Why You Are Claiming Refugee Protection in Canada:
    • The heart of the BoC Form lies in explaining the reasons behind your claim for refugee protection. This portion is structured to draw out a comprehensive narrative of your experiences and fears. You’re encouraged to delve into specifics, detailing the harm, mistreatment, or threats you believe you’d face upon returning to your country. The form’s design, with leading questions, guides you to uncover and articulate the core issues driving your claim for asylum.
    • The narrative should encompass broad aspects that paint a clear picture of your situation and address more pointed questions that validate the legitimacy of your claim. For instance, queries like “If you returned to your country today, do you believe you would experience harm or mistreatment or threats?” compel you to reflect deeply and justify your need for protection.

Providing a thorough and honest account within the BoC Form is not just about fulfilling a procedural requirement; it’s about conveying your story in a manner that underscores the urgency and legitimacy of your plea for refuge. This documentation is pivotal in the assessment process, where the details of your narrative can significantly influence the outcome of your claim​​.

Gathering and Submitting Evidence

When making a refugee claim in Canada, substantiating your claim with concrete evidence is crucial. This evidence provides the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) with the necessary context to assess your claim accurately. Here’s how to gather and submit this vital information:

  • Detailed Narratives: Alongside formal documents, a written account of your experiences, including dates, places, and people involved, can significantly strengthen your case. These narratives should align with the information provided in your Basis of Claim (BoC) Form.
  • Document Everything: Ensure you collect all relevant documents that can support your claim. This might include identity documents, police reports, medical records, witness statements, or any other evidence that corroborates your narrative of persecution or danger.
  • Legal and Country Information: Including legal documents, human rights reports, and information on the conditions in your country can help contextualize your claim, especially if they relate to your specific circumstances.

Remember, the quality and relevance of your evidence can significantly impact the outcome of your claim. It’s not just about the quantity of documents but their ability to convincingly illustrate your need for protection under Canada’s refugee and asylum laws.

Attending Your Hearing

The refugee hearing is a pivotal moment in the application process, offering you the platform to present your case in detail. This section provides an overview of what to expect during the hearing and how to prepare effectively. Here is what you can expect at your hearing:

  • Participants: The hearing will typically include a Member of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), yourself, any family members claiming refugee status, and possibly an interpreter, your legal counsel, a minister’s representative from IRCC, and support people like close friends or family​​​​.
  • Privacy: Hearings usually last half a day and are conducted in private to protect your privacy, unless a request is made for a public hearing​​​​.
  • IRCC and CBSA Involvement: The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) may participate in the hearing to challenge your credibility or argue for exclusion from refugee protection​​​​.
  • Decision: While the decision may sometimes be provided orally at the hearing’s conclusion, it’s more common to receive a written notice of the decision afterward, detailing the IRB’s reasoning​​​​.

Proper preparation, along with gathering substantial evidence are key to articulating your case compellingly.

Receiving Your Decision

After your refugee hearing, the process of awaiting a decision begins. This crucial phase determines the next steps in your journey towards safety and residency in Canada. Here’s an overview of what happens post-hearing and the possible outcomes you might face.

Post-Hearing Process

  • Immediate Feedback: In some instances, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) member might provide an oral decision at the conclusion of the hearing, giving you immediate insight into the outcome of your claim.
  • Written Notice: Regardless of whether an oral decision is provided, you will receive a written notice of the decision post-hearing. This document will detail the IRB’s decision, including reasons for a negative outcome if applicable​​.

Possible Outcomes:

Outcomes can be broadly categorized as negative or positive.

  • Positive Decision: A positive decision grants you Convention Refugee status, paving the way for you to apply for permanent residency in Canada. It’s important to note that the Government of Canada retains the right to appeal positive decisions to the Refugee Appeal Division.
  • Negative Decision: If your claim is denied, you will have the option to appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD), except in specific cases where this right is not available. Should an appeal at the RAD not be available or if your appeal at the RAD is unsuccessful, you can file a notice for leave and for judicial review at the Federal Court. While you have an appeal at the RAD or an application for leave and for judicial review at the Federal Court in process, you will not be removed from Canada.

After You Apply

After submitting your refugee claim in Canada, there are several important steps and options to consider as you await the decision. This period involves managing your existing documents, exploring work and study opportunities, and ensuring your claim remains secure against fraud.

Work and Study Permits

Both work and study permits represent avenues through which refugee claimants can constructively engage and integrate into Canadian society during the processing period of their claims. It’s essential to stay informed about the application processes for these permits to make the most of your time in Canada while awaiting your claim’s outcome.

  • Work Permits: While waiting for a decision on your refugee claim, you may be eligible for a work permit. This can be requested at the same time as your claim if you apply at a port of entry. If your claim is submitted online, you can also request a work permit within the application. Eligibility for a work permit typically depends on the referral of your claim to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) and completion of your medical exam​​.
  • Study Permits: Unlike work permits, study permits must be applied for separately from your refugee claim. If you’re interested in studying during your wait, it’s important to understand the eligibility criteria and application process for obtaining a study permit​​.

For comprehensive support and guidance through this complex process, consider partnering with Hasa Attorneys after you have made your claim as a refugee. Our experience in immigration law ensures that every step of your journey is navigated with precision and care, maximizing your chances of a favorable outcome and a new beginning in Canada.

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