COVID-19 FAQs: Immigration and Refugee Law
On this page:
- Can I still get legal aid for my immigration or refugee case?
Yes. LAO continues to issue immigration and refugee certificates. You can call the LAO <Client Service Centre at a 1‑800‑668‑8258 to apply for a certificate. Our staff offices continue to take new clients, although intake is being done by telephone only.
- I made a claim at the border and was given a 15 day deadline to file my Basis Of Claim (BOC). What do I do?
All IRB offices are closed. You cannot deliver your BOC by hand, but you can send the signed original and a copy by courier. You can also fax your BOC if it is less than 20 pages. Make sure you keep a copy for yourself. If you were given a deadline to file your BOC with the IRB between February 15, 2020 and April 15, 2020, the deadline has been automatically extended to May 30, 2020.
- I made a claim at an IRCC office and was given an appointment to come back. What do I do?
IRCC has cancelled all appointments. You will be contacted when it is rescheduled. Make sure you keep your address with IRCC up to date. Check the Government of Canada’s web page for updates about how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting immigration and refugee services.
- My refugee hearing was scheduled between March 17, 2020 and today and it did not take place. What do I do?
The IRB offices are currently closed and the IRB has suspended all refugee hearings since March 17, 2020. When the IRB reopens and starts having hearings again, they will post a notice on the IRB website. Your hearing will be rescheduled to a new date. Most people will get at least 30 days’ notice of the new hearing date, but some people may get less notice. Stay in communication with your lawyer and listen to their advice about how to prepare for your hearing. If the restrictions in place because of the COVID‑19 pandemic prevent you from preparing for your hearing, tell your lawyer about this. You should not put yourself in any risk of harm in order to prepare for your hearing. Check the IRB website for updates.
- My refugee hearing is scheduled and the date is coming up. What should I do?
The IRB offices are currently closed and the IRB has suspended all refugee hearings until further notice. When the IRB reopens and starts having hearings again, they will post a notice on the IRB website. If your refugee hearing date has not passed when the IRB reopens, your hearing may take place on the originally scheduled date. If your hearing is going to take place as scheduled, or scheduled on a new date, you will receive a Notice of Resumption. Most people will get at least 30 days’ notice, but some people may get less notice. Stay in communication with your lawyer to listen to their advice about how to prepare for your hearing. If the restrictions in place because of the COVID‑19 pandemic prevent you from preparing for your hearing, tell your lawyer about this. You should not put yourself in any risk of harm in order to prepare for your hearing. Check the IRB website for updates.
- I had my hearing and I am waiting for my decision. What should I do?
The IRB decision makers are still working on their cases and you should expect to get a decision in the mail. If your address changes, you can update it by completing the Notification of Client Contact Information form and sending it to the IRB as soon as possible. Please check their contact page.
- I am in Canada but have not yet made my refugee claim. What should I do?
All IRCC offices are closed. You can make a refugee claim if you are in Canada by sending an email to IRCC.RefugeeClaim-Demandedasile.IRCC@cic.gc.ca.
You will receive an email response which will tell you what steps to take next. When you complete the steps, you will receive an Acknowledgement of Claim form by mail or email, which you can use to apply for social assistance benefits and which gives you access to the Interim Federal Health Program. When the IRCC offices re-open, you will be contacted to go to their office to be fingerprinted, to submit your documents and for your eligibility interview. You will also be told when to go for your immigration medical examination. In the meantime, you can apply for a legal aid certificate now to find a lawyer to work with you on your Basis of Claim form.
- I am in the United States and want to come to the border with Canada to make a refugee claim. Can I?
On March 21, 2020, the government of Canada closed the border with the United States to most people, including people who want to make a refugee claim. Anyone who comes to the border to try to make a refugee claim—at both official crossings and unofficial crossings (like Roxham Road, for example) will be returned to the United States.
There are a very few exceptions.
The following people can still make a refugee claim at an official border crossing:
- US citizens, including US citizens under the age of 18
- the mother, father or legal guardian of a US citizen under the age of 18 who is accompanying them to Canada and also making a refugee claim
- a stateless person (having no country of citizenship) who has lived or been “habitually resident” in the United States
- any child under the age of 18 whose parents are not in the United States and who is not married or in a common law relationship
- I just received a negative decision in my refugee claim. What should I do?
You normally have a 15 day deadline to file your Notice of Appeal. However, all deadlines this year have been suspended until further notice. When this situation changes, a Resumption Notice will be posted on the IRB website. You will have 30 days from the date of the Resumption Notice to file your Notice of Appeal. All IRB offices are closed but you can fax your Notice of Appeal to the fax number in the papers that came with your refugee decision. For more information, please check the IRB website for the latest updates.
You can still apply for a legal aid certificate for your appeal. Contact us at 1-800-668-8258 from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- I filed my notice of appeal and had a deadline to send in my evidence and legal submissions. Is the deadline still the same?
All RAD deadlines this year have been suspended until further notice. When this situation changes, a Resumption Notice will be posted on the IRB website. You will have 30 days from the date of the Resumption Notice to send in your evidence and legal submissions.
- My lawyer was working on a judicial review case for me in Federal Court. There were deadlines and hearings. What will happen now?
All Federal Court deadlines between March 16, 2020 and May 15, 2020 have been suspended. Talk to your lawyer about how your case will be affected.
All judicial review hearings scheduled between March 16, 2020 and May 15, 2020 have been cancelled and will be rescheduled at a later date.
If you have an urgent matter, the Federal Court can hold a hearing by teleconference. The Federal Court offices are closed to in-person visits but please check their website for the most up‑to‑date information.
- I am worried about my family member or someone I am assisting who is in immigration detention. What can I do to help them?
Immigration detention review hearings are still taking place, however detainees are staying in the jail where they are detained and attending by teleconference. If a detained person needs counsel for their detention review hearing, or for more information about immigration detention during the COVID pandemic, you can contact our Refugee Law Office at (416) 977-8111.
- I am supposed to report in person on a regular basis to CBSA. What will happen now?
CBSA offices are closed and you should not report in person. If you normally report to 6900 Airport Road in Toronto, email the CBSA at ENQUIRIES222@CBSA.GC.CA with your name and Client ID and say you would like to report. If you normally report to another CBSA office, telephone that office to find out what you should do.
- I had a date to be deported from Canada or the CBSA was going to schedule my deportation. Do I still have to go?
CBSA has postponed most deportations and you will be informed if your deportation is postponed. CBSA has not said when they will start deportations again during this COVID-19 pandemic. We will update our information and provide links as it becomes available.
If CBSA gives you a date to leave Canada and tells you that your deportation is not postponed, contact your lawyer or apply for a legal aid certificate to discuss your options if you want to try to stop your deportation.
CBSA has cancelled most meetings, but if CBSA was working to schedule your deportation, you must continue to report if they give you a new appointment date to meet with them.
Work Permits / Study Permits / Visitors Extension
- My work permit, study permit or visitor status is about to expire. What should I do?
You should still apply to extend your work permit, study permit or visitor status before it expires. You can do this in the same way as normal, either by courier or online. Please visit the Canadian government website about immigration and refugee services during the COVID-19 pandemic for more information.
H&C Application / Pre-Removal Risk Assessment application
- Will IRCC still be making a decision on my application?
Yes, immigration officers are continuing to make decisions on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds applications and Pre-Removal Risk Assessment applications.
If the COVID pandemic has changed anything in your case, whether it is your situation in Canada or what would happen to you in your country of origin, speak to your lawyer. It is always possible to send in additional documents to support your H&C application or PRRA application. If you cannot get documents that you want to submit because of COVID-19, tell your lawyer. Your lawyer can ask the immigration officer to avoid making a decision until you have been able to submit the documents.
- I was given a deadline to submit documents for my H&C application or PRRA application. What should I do?
Immigration officers are supposed to give 90 day extensions for H&C applications. For PRRA applications, there is no requirement to give an extension. If you cannot respond within the time given, you should ask for additional time and explain why you need it.
Interim Federal Health Benefits
- My IFHP benefits are about to expire. How do I renew it?
IFHP provides healthcare benefits to refugee claimants and most people who have made refugee claims in the past who do not have OHIP. Your IFHP coverage will automatically be extended as long as you are still in Canada and attending meetings with immigration officials whenever required.
The Ontario Ministry of health announced on March 25, 2020 that the government will pay for all medically necessary health care (whether related to COVID-19 or not) for all persons, even if they do not have government health care coverage.
- Steps 2 Justice: Immigration and refugee