1. Find out if the STCA applies

The Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) applies if you arrive to Canada from the United States (U.S.):

  • by car, train, bus, on foot, or by any other means at a land crossing
  • after crossing between ports of entry and making a refugee claim less than 14 days after entering Canada
  • by plane, but only if your refugee claim was rejected in the U.S. and you're being removed from there

If the STCA applies to you, you'll be taken back to the U.S., unless you can prove that you meet an exception to the STCA. See Step 2.

You'll also have to show that you meet all the other requirements to make a refugee claim.

Risks of entering Canada between official ports of entry

It can be dangerous to cross the Canada-U.S. land border somewhere that's not an official . For example, you risk getting sick or injured if you travel in rural areas that don't have shelter.

If the police see you crossing the border between ports of entry, they may arrest you and take you to the nearest:

  • port of entry,
  • Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) office, or
  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) office.

If you say that you want to make a refugee claim, an officer will interview you. They'll check for health or security concerns and confirm who you are. They'll also decide if you're eligible to make a refugee claim and if they need to detain you.

Already in Canada

You need to go to an IRCC office to make your refugee claim if you've been in Canada for at least 14 days.

You should get legal advice. A lawyer can help you fill out your application forms and make your claim as soon as possible.

If you wait too long before you make your claim, it might seem like you're not really afraid to return to your country.

If you don't make a refugee claim and the police or CBSA learns that you're in Canada without status, they can arrest and detain you. If CBSA makes a  against you before you make a refugee claim, you won't be eligible to make a refugee claim. But you can still apply for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA).

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