What happens if I make a refugee claim when I arrive in Canada?

You can make a refugee claim when you arrive at an official point of entry in Canada, like an airport, marine port, or a Canada-United States (US) border crossing. These are referred to as a “Ports of Entry” or POEs.

If you plan to make a refugee claim at a POE, you must do so immediately when the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer asks for your passport and the reason you came to Canada.

The officer will interview you to decide if you're eligible to make a claim. The interview can happen right away or you might be given an appointment to come back.

At the interview, the officer will:

  • review your identity documents
  • review your immigration history
  • complete a security check
  • complete some forms with you

The officer only decides if you're eligible to make a claim. They don't decide if your claim should be accepted.

If you're eligible to make a claim, the officer sends your claim to the Refugee Board for a hearing to decide if you're a Convention Refugee or a .

In most cases, if you're not eligible to make a refugee claim, arrangements will be made for you to be removed from Canada.

Many people coming to Canada from the US are not eligible to make a refugee claim because of the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). Before you come to a POE, talk to a lawyer to help you figure out if the STCA applies to you.

You're also not eligible to make a refugee claim if you arrived from a country that has an information sharing agreement with Canada and you already made a claim in that country. The list of countries includes the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. If this applies to you, get legal advice right away.

Risk of detention

You might be detained at your eligibility interview. Some reasons an CBSA officer might detain you include:

  • they need to confirm your identity
  • they think you're a security threat in Canada
  • they need time to get travel documents to remove you from Canada and they don't think you won't show up for your removal

You have the right to know the reason you're being detained. You also have the right to a hearing within 48 hours of being detained and the right to hire a legal representative.

Get legal help

You should try to get legal advice. A lawyer can help you figure out if you're eligible to make a claim, fill out the forms, and prepare for your hearing.

And, if you're not eligible to make a refugee claim, a lawyer can tell you if there are ways you can delay your removal, apply for , or apply to stay in Canada permanently.

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