What happens at my refugee hearing?

At your refugee hearing, a Member of the Refugee Board reviews your and decides whether to accept or refuse your claim.

Your evidence includes:

  • your Basis of Claim (BOC) form
  • what you say at your hearing
  • any other evidence like documents that prove your identity and the risk you face in your country
  • witnesses who can testify at your refugee hearing

The Board compares your evidence to the evidence in your immigration file. For example, you might have a previous application for a study permit or visitor's visa, or a previous refugee claim or an immigration application in another country.

The hearing

Refugee hearings are not open to the public. Hearings take place in private to protect you and your family. If you want anyone else to watch your hearing, such as a friend or support person, you have to give your permission.

Hearings usually take a half day or less. But sometimes a hearing can take a full day or more.

Most hearings take place in person. But if the Board member isn't in the same city as you, your hearing might take place by videoconference.

There is usually a break halfway through the hearing. But you can ask for a break if you need to use the washroom, take medication, or get something to eat. You can also take a break if you need time to recover after speaking about a difficult experience.

You can register for a free “Ready Tour” session that gives more information about the hearing. 

Language rights

You have the right to a hearing in English or French. If you don't speak English or French, it's very important to ask for an interpreter. The Refugee Board will provide an interpreter for free if you ask for one. You need to be able to express yourself clearly and to understand all questions being asked at the hearing.

Your Basis of Claim (BOC) form asks you to choose the language you prefer for your hearing. If you did not ask for an interpreter on your BOC but you now feel you need one, or if you want to change the language or dialect you chose, you must tell the Refugee Board in writing at least 10 days before your hearing.

Children

If children are included in your claim, usually you will be appointed as their designated representative. The designated representative helps the children understand the refugee claim process and make decisions for them. This also means you can give evidence for them at the hearing.

Sometimes a lawyer or social worker is appointed as a child's designated representative. If this happens, you will get a notice in the mail before your hearing that tells you who has been appointed.

Even though the children won't give evidence, if they are over 12 years old, you must bring them to your hearing. If your children are under 12 years old on the day of the hearing, you can bring them but you don't have to.  You would have to bring someone to look after the children if they are too young to be left on their own. The Refugee Board doesn't provide childcare.

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