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Arrival in Canada - General Information

Refugee Definition


In order to receive refugee status in Canada, a very strict definition in Section 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act must be met. This definition includes that a refugee is someone who has a fear of being persecuted for certain reasons.  These reasons could include skin colour, religion, gender or sexual orientation, or that the applicant spoke out against their government. In addition, the claimant must be outside their country of nationality or country of residence, as well as be unable, or unwilling, to return because of fear of persecution.


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Most asylum seekers arrive in Canada at airport ports of entry. A claim for refugee status is then made to border officials at the airport. Others arrive in Canada and then make a claim shortly after at an  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship office in their city of arrival.


Arrival at a land port of entry is quite different. Canada and the US have made an Agreement that if someone claims asylum at this port of entry, the claimant will be sent back. There are some exceptions to this agreement, and it is important to know whether you meet these before traveling to a US-Canadian land port of entry to make a refugee claim.

Some asylum seekers enter Canada without going through a port of entry. They may have walked or driven across the US-Canada border, avoiding border control offices. These are called ‘irregular’ border crossings.

Regardless of the method of entering Canada, an asylum seeker must make a claim for refugee status to an immigration official as soon as possible after they arrive. Refugee claims can be made to immigration officials at ports of entry or at inland immigration offices. Claims for refugee status can also be taken to a police officer, who will then bring the claimant to an immigration official. Once a claim for refugee status is made to an immigration official, the government refugee process begins.

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The first step in any asylum process is an Assessment of Eligibility. This means government officers interview the claimant to ensure they meet specific criteria to move forward with an application.  You are not permitted to have a lawyer with you at your eligibility interview.


The officers may determine that you are inadmissible to Canada.  However, if you are found eligible to make a claim for refugee status, you will be permitted to have a refugee hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. If you are found not to be eligible, you will be removed from Canada.


Those not eligible to make a refugee claim in Canada include persons who:

  • are under a Canadian removal order;

  • are recognized as a Convention refugee by another country that they can return to;

  • were granted protected person status in Canada;

  • arrived at the land border and do not meet any available exceptions;

  • are not admissible to Canada on security grounds, criminal activity, or human rights violations;

  • made a previous refugee claim that was not found eligible;

  • made a previous refugee claim that was rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB); and

  • abandoned or withdrew a previous refugee claim.

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