2. Learn about exceptions to the SCTA rules

Can I make a refugee claim in Canada if I’m coming from the U.S.?
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2. Learn about exceptions to the SCTA rules

If the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) applies where you try to enter Canada, you might still be able to make a refugee claim if you meet an exception to the STCA and you have not already made a refugee claim in the US. You must prove that you:

  • have an eligible family member in Canada,
  • are an unaccompanied minor under the age of 18,
  • are a citizen of the United States,
  • are a “stateless person” and you normally live in the US,
  • hold a valid Canadian visa, or
  • have been charged with or convicted of a crime for which you could get the death penalty in the US or another country.

Even if you meet one of these exceptions, you still need to show that you meet all the other requirements to make a refugee claim.

Family member exception

To qualify for the family member exception to the STCA, your family member must be your:

  • spouse including common-law and same-sex spouses, if the marriage was legal where it took place and would be legal in Canada,
  • child or grandchild,
  • parent or grandparent,
  • brother or sister,
  • aunt or uncle,
  • niece or nephew, or
  • legal guardian if you’re under 18 years old.

Only the family members in this list qualify for the exemption. Other family members like cousins or in-laws don’t qualify. An in-law is a person who is related to you only by marriage.

Your family member must also be:

  • a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada
  • someone who is over 18 years old and has a valid Canadian work permit or study permit
  • someone who has received protected person status
  • someone who is over 18 years old, has made a refugee claim, and is waiting for their hearing before the Refugee Board, or
  • a foreign national whose removal order has been stayed on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Your family member is not expected to support you financially in Canada.

When you make your claim in Canada, your family member must also be in Canada. For example, they can’t be on vacation outside of Canada when you arrive.

To prove that you meet the family member exception, bring with you:

  • documents that prove your relationship to your family member, for example, your marriage certificate, birth certificate, or an affidavit from the relative
  • documents that prove the family member fits one of the categories above, for example, their permanent resident card, protected person status, valid refugee protection claimant document, passport, or valid work permit

If your documents are not in English or French, you must also get:

  • an English or French translation of the document, and
  • a statement or affidavit written and signed by the translator.

It’s a good idea to have your family member come to your interview. The CBSA officer might want to ask them questions about their identity and their relationship to you.

But if you or your family member give information that that is different from other information in your immigration file or information that is not true, the CBSA officer might decide that you don’t meet a family member exception and you will be taken back to the US.

And even if you’re eligible to make a claim, any information that you give at your interview that is different from other information in your immigration file or not true can have a negative impact on your refugee claim.

No exception

If you don’t meet one of these exceptions to the STCA, a CBSA officer will take you back to the US. Then a US Custom and Border Patrol official will decide if you should be released or detained.

You May Also Need

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
Reviewed: July 11, 2019

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