Your refugee claim: before you get started

This section will give you an overview of what you need to know before you start your refugee claim.

1. Get legal help

It is very important for you to get legal help right away with your refugee claim. You have a few choices:

Lawyers
Paralegals
  • You can also be represented at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) by a paralegal or notary (Québec).
Immigration consultants
  • If you choose this option, make sure that the consultant is a member of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). Only ICCRC consultants can appear before the Immigration and Refugee Board, if they are charging you a fee. Ask the consultant whether they are a member. You can also look them up in the ICCRC List.
Community groups

Other people may represent you at the IRB, such as a family member, but do not let someone who is not a lawyer, paralegal or immigration consultant regulated by ICCRC represent you for a fee.

2. Starting a claim

There are two ways to start a refugee claim. The process will be different depending on how you start your claim. You can start a claim:

If you are coming from the United States, you need to know that it is considered a “safe third country.” There are restrictions on who can come to Canada by land from the United States to make a refugee claim.

3. Next steps – time is short

The next step is to complete your Basis of Claim (BOC) form.

  • If you are planning to make a claim when you enter Canada at a land border, airport or a seaport, you have 15 days to complete your BOC form after you are given the forms by immigration officials. This often, but not always, happens on the same day that you arrive in Canada.
  • If you make a claim from inside Canada, you have to complete your BOC form before your eligibility interview with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Start collecting your documents, right away. You need to submit any documents at least 10 days before your hearing. If your refugee claim is rejected, you could be removed from Canada. You will only have 15 days to start an appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) or at the Federal Court of Canada. Some categories of rejected claimants are not able to appeal to the RAD. These include some claimants who came to Canada from the United States, or those whose refugee claims are found to have “no credible basis” or “manifestly unfounded”. Those claimants without access to the RAD should talk to a lawyer about bringing an application to Federal Court for judicial review. There are important deadlines for both RAD appeals and judicial reviews.