1. Find out if the STCA applies

Can I make a refugee claim in Canada if I’m coming from the U.S.?
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1. Find out if the STCA applies

The Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) applies if you arrive to Canada from the US:

  • by car, train, bus, on foot, or by any other means at a land border Port of Entry (POE)
  • by train at a location inside Canada that has been listed as a POE
  • by plane, but only if your refugee claim was rejected in the US and you’re being removed from there

If the STCA applies where you arrive, you will be taken back to the US unless you can prove that you meet an exception to the STCA.

The STCA doesn’t apply if you arrive to Canada from the US:

  • at marine ports, including ferry landings
  • at airports, unless you’re in transit while being removed from the US after having your refugee claim rejected there
  • at inland offices of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) or the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA)
  • along the US-Canada land border between POEs

If the STCA doesn’t apply where you arrive, and if you didn’t already make a refugee claim in the US, you might be eligible to make a refugee claim. You will still 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-US land border somewhere that is not an official POE. For example, there is a risk of illness and injury if you travel in unsheltered, rural areas.

You’re also more likely to be detained at your eligibility interview. For example, you can be detained if the CBSA officer thinks you won’t show up for your hearing or your removal.  

If the police see you crossing the border between POEs, they will arrest you and take you to the nearest POE, CBSA office, or IRCC office. If you say that you want to make a refugee claim, an officer will interview you. They will check for health or security concerns, confirm your identity, decide if you’re eligible to make a refugee claim, and decide if they need to detain you.

Already in Canada

If you entered Canada without contact with the police or CBSA, you need to go to an IRCC office to make your refugee claim. You should get legal advice to fill out your application forms, and to 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 learn that you’re in Canada without status, they can arrest and detain you. If CBSA makes a removal order 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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Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
Reviewed: July 11, 2019

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