COVID-19 FAQs: Immigration and Refugee Law

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Legal Aid

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 from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to apply for a certificate. Our staff offices are also open a minimum of two days per week to provide in-person services.

Refugee claims

My refugee hearing was scheduled between March 17, 2020 and today and it did not take place. What do I do?
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. You can also check the  IRB website for updates.

My refugee hearing is scheduled and the date is coming up. What should I do?

As of April 7, 2022, Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) hearings continue to be held remotely  until further notice.

In the coming weeks, the IRB will provide additional information on the manner in which hearings will be held.

Documents delivered in person will not be accepted for any Division at this time. Information about how to submit documents is available here:

If your hearing is going to be 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 and listen to their advice about how to prepare for your hearing. You can also 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?
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 that 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. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will contact you to go to their offices to be fingerprinted, to submit your documents, and for your eligibility review. 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.


Refugee appeals

I just received a negative decision in my refugee claim. What should I do?
Until further notice, all Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) hearings are being conducted remotely, with only urgent and particularly sensitive cases considered for in-person hearings on a case-by-case basis. More information about COVID-19 and the IRB’s resumption of operations can be found here.

Please check the IRB website for updates.

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.

If you miss the deadline to file your appeal and you still want to do so, you must file an application for an extension of time. The application form is part of the Appellant’s Guide and Kit, and is available on the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada website and IRB offices.


Immigration detention

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?
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Bond Reporting Centres have re-opened. If you have been reporting to CBSA by email or phone during COVID-19, continue to do so unless you have received a letter that tells you to report in person.

Deportations

I had a date to be deported from Canada or the CBSA was going to schedule my deportation. Do I still have to go?
Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has postponed most deportations. 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.
CBSA has not announced when they will resume deportations. If you have questions about your Removal Order you are encouraged to call CBSA at 1-833-995-0002, Monday to Friday between 8:00 am to 4:00 pm AST, to speak to an officer who can answer your case-specific questions.
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.

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

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.
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.

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.


More information