Understanding Your Rights

All individuals in Canada are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including refugee claimants. If you’re seeking refugee protection, you have certain rights and may be eligible for Canadian services while your claim is being processed.

Medical Examination for Refugee Claimants

After submitting your refugee claim, you’ll be instructed to undergo an immigration medical exam. This exam is crucial for your application and involves the collection of some personal information. The Canadian government covers the cost of this medical exam if you present your Acknowledgement of Claim and Notice to Return for Interview letter or your refugee protection claimant document.

Employment Opportunities

Refugee claimants who haven’t applied for a work permit alongside their refugee claim can still submit a separate work permit application. This application must include:

  • A copy of your refugee protection claimant document.
  • Proof of a completed immigration medical examination.
  • Evidence that employment is necessary for basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter.
  • Confirmation that family members in Canada, for whom you’re requesting permits, are also applying for refugee status.

Work permits for refugee claimants are issued without any fees while awaiting the decision on your refugee claim. To avoid any delays, ensure your current address is always updated with the authorities, which can be done online.

Access to Education

While waiting for your refugee claim decision, you can apply for a study permit to attend school. A prerequisite for this application is an acceptance letter from a designated learning institution. Your family members may also be eligible for study permits if they’re applying for refugee status alongside you. Note that minor children do not need a study permit for kindergarten, elementary, or secondary education.

Asylum Claims Process in Canada

Background on Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) Changes

On March 24, 2023, Canada expanded the STCA with the United States to include the entire land border and internal waterways. This expansion means individuals who don’t meet specific exceptions and have crossed the border to claim asylum will be returned to the U.S.

Role of CBSA and RCMP

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) ensure the security of Canada’s borders, managing and intercepting irregular entries. The CBSA oversees entry at official ports, while the RCMP monitors security between ports of entry.

Making a Refugee Claim

Refugee claims can be made at a port of entry upon arrival in Canada or online if you’re already in the country. Eligibility for a refugee claim is determined by several factors, including past criminal activity, previous claims, or protection status in another country.

Difference Between Refugee Claimants and Resettled Refugees

Refugee claimants are individuals who seek asylum upon arrival in Canada, as governed by international treaties. In contrast, resettled refugees are screened and processed abroad before being granted permanent residency upon arrival in Canada.

After Making a Refugee Claim

Cross-Border Irregularities

Individuals are urged to enter Canada through designated ports of entry for safety and legal reasons. Those entering irregularly undergo security screening before their immigration examination.

Claim Eligibility and Hearing

Eligible claims are referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada for a hearing. Meanwhile, claimants may access certain social services, education, and apply for work permits after medical examination.

Receiving a Decision

A positive decision grants protected person status, making federally funded settlement services available. Negative decisions can be appealed, but all legal avenues must be exhausted before removal.

Understanding the STCA

The STCA mandates that refugee claimants seek protection in the first safe country they arrive in, with specific exceptions for family members, minors, and individuals with valid Canadian travel documents, among others.

This comprehensive overview highlights the process, rights, and services available to refugee claimants in Canada, emphasizing the importance of legal pathways and the support provided during the claim process.


What rights do I have as a refugee claimant in Canada?

As a refugee claimant in Canada, you are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees your rights to liberty and security. You also have access to certain services, including healthcare and education, while your claim is being processed.

Is the immigration medical exam mandatory for refugee claimants?

Yes, the immigration medical exam is mandatory. It must be completed after you submit your refugee claim, and the Canadian government covers the cost if you present the appropriate documentation.

Can I work in Canada while my refugee claim is being processed?

Yes, you can apply for a work permit while awaiting the decision on your refugee claim. You must provide proof of your refugee claim and evidence that you need employment to support your basic needs.

Are there any fees for applying for a work permit as a refugee claimant?

No, there are no fees for applying for work permits for refugee claimants or their family members while awaiting a decision on the refugee claim.

Can I study in Canada while waiting for my refugee claim to be processed?

Yes, you can apply for a study permit to attend school in Canada. You’ll need an acceptance letter from a designated learning institution. Minor children accompanying you do not require a study permit for kindergarten through secondary school.

What changes were made to the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) in 2023?

In 2023, Canada and the U.S. expanded the STCA to apply across the entire land border, including internal waterways. This means individuals not meeting certain exceptions will be returned to the U.S. if they attempt to claim asylum after crossing the border irregularly.

What is the role of CBSA and RCMP in the refugee claim process?

The CBSA is responsible for security at ports of entry and processing claims made at these locations. The RCMP oversees security between ports of entry. Both agencies work to ensure the safety and legality of entries into Canada.

How is eligibility for making a refugee claim determined?

Eligibility is determined based on factors such as whether the claimant has committed serious crimes, made previous claims in Canada or another country, or received protection in another country.

What happens after receiving a decision on a refugee claim?

If the decision is positive, you gain protected person status and access to federally funded settlement services. If the decision is negative, you may appeal the decision or, ultimately, be subject to removal from Canada.

Who is exempt from the STCA?

Exemptions include claimants with family members in Canada, unaccompanied minors, individuals holding valid Canadian travel documents, and those facing the death penalty in the U.S. or a third country.

Can American citizens or stateless individuals residing in the U.S. claim asylum in Canada?

Yes, American citizens and stateless individuals habitually residing in the U.S. are not subject to the STCA and can make a claim at the land border.
These FAQs provide a brief overview of the rights, services, and processes for refugee claimants in Canada, aiming to clarify common questions and concerns.

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