I was offered a virtual PRRA hearing. What should I do?
Some (PRRA) applicants must be given a hearing. You are entitled to a PRRA hearing if you’re not eligible to make a refugee claim in Canada because:
- you came from a country that has an information sharing agreement with Canada, and
- immigration authorities in Canada have information that you made a refugee claim in that country before you arrived.
This hearing is also called an interview. You meet with an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officer, also called a senior immigration officer. They are called mandatory hearings.
Other people who applied for a PRRA might be asked to come to a hearing. This includes failed refugee claimants, people under a , and people whose claims were ineligible for reasons other than those described above. This type of hearing rarely happens. But if you are asked to come to a hearing, IRCC will ask you questions about your credibility. This includes asking what you fear or questions about the documents you submitted. This is called a credibility-based hearing. But most of these PRRAs are decided only on the written application, without a hearing at all.
See this question for more information about what a PRRA hearing is and how to prepare for one.
On December 2, 2020, IRCC announced that they will be holding PRRA hearings by video. IRCC will write to offer you a remote hearing. If you agree to have a remote hearing, you must sign and return a form to IRCC. To participate remotely, you must use software called Microsoft Teams. You can access the software on a web browser or download Microsoft Teams to your device or computer.
If you don’t want a remote hearing, you can ask IRCC for an in-person PRRA hearing at their office. At an in-person hearing, you and your counsel are usually in the same room but the officer may be in a different location participating by video. You might have to wait many months for an in-person hearing because of COVID 19.
It’s important to discuss your hearing with your lawyer. If you don’t have a lawyer, find out about getting legal help here.
Remote or in-person hearing
To decide what type of PRRA hearing you want, think about these questions.
You might prefer a remote hearing if you have:
- health concerns about COVID-19 that would make an in-person hearing difficult
- concerns about delaying your hearing until it can be held in-person
You will also need:
- access to a reliable device or computer with a camera and microphone
- a stable internet connection
- access to Microsoft Teams, the program used for remote hearings, either through a web browser or by downloading it on your device or computer
- a private space where you feel comfortable and can speak without interruption
If you don’t have access to reliable technology for a remote PRRA hearing, talk to your lawyer about what is best. They might have a private space and equipment at their office that you can use for your hearing.
If you have a witness who can provide to support your PRRA, talk to your lawyer. The witness can write a statement to describe what they know about the risks you face. It is best to use an affidavit, or you can give the officer a signed, dated letter. All supporting evidence must be sent to the officer 5 days before the PRRA hearing.
Notice to Appear
You will receive a Notice to Appear. Your Notice to Appear includes the date and time of your hearing. For remote hearings, it also includes instructions about using Microsoft Teams technology.
Your Notice to Appear includes important information about the facts and issues that you will be asked about at your hearing. Carefully review your Notice to Appear with your lawyer to prepare for your hearing. At the hearing, the officer will ask questions that must relate to the issues identified in your Notice to Appear. If the officer wants to raise a different issue at your hearing, they have to tell you and give you time to respond. This might include taking a break or postponing your hearing to a later date.
Your right to a fair PRRA hearing
The most important thing is that your hearing is fair. You need to be able to see and hear everyone and be heard clearly. You also need to be able to understand the interpreter, if you are using one. You must be able to hear the interpreter clearly and they must hear and translate every word you say.
If your hearing has started and you don’t think it’s fair because you can’t hear or participate well, you or your lawyer should ask the officer to stop the hearing until any issues can be fixed. You have a right to raise concerns. You can put your hand up to show that you have a concern. You can also say out loud that there is a problem. If the officer continues the hearing without addressing an issue, keep track of when you raised it. This might be important if your PRRA is refused and you want to ask the Federal Court to review the decision.
Unlike a refugee hearing, a PRRA hearing is not automatically recorded. You should ask the officer if you can record it, or take notes of what is said. You can also ask the officer for a copy of their notes after the hearing. These notes or the recording will be important if your PRRA is refused and you want to ask the Federal Court to review the decision. Talk to your lawyer about this and all decisions about your PRRA hearing.