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I am making a claim when I arrive in Canada

You can ask for refugee status as soon as you arrive in Canada either at the border, at an airport or at a seaport by making a Port of Entry (POE) claim.

If you ask to make a refugee claim, an official from the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) will give you an eligibility interview.

If you are arriving from the United States, there may be restrictions on making a claim. Get legal help if this applies to you.

If you are arriving with a group entering the country illegally, you could be listed as a “Designated Foreign National (DFN)” or “irregular arrival.” You would be detained immediately, and your refugee claim and rights would be affected.

What happens at the eligibility interview?

At your eligibility interview, an officer from the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) will ask you questions to learn if you are eligible to make a claim.

The officer will ask questions about your identity, history and the basis of your claim. It is important to tell them all the reasons why you are making a refugee claim.

What you say during the interview will be compared to your Basis of Claim (BOC) form and immigration forms, your supporting documents and your hearing. Do not guess an answer to a question if you are not sure about or cannot remember.

When is someone ineligible?

You could be ineligible to make a refugee claim in Canada if:

  • you have refugee status in another country
  • you arrived from the United States by land, and none of the exceptions apply to you
  • you have been convicted of a serious crime
  • on security grounds, or because of criminal activity or human rights violations
  • you were found ineligible to make a claim in the past
  • you made a refugee claim that was rejected in the past
  • you abandoned or withdrew a refugee claim in the past
  • you have a removal order from Canada

If one or more of these conditions apply, you will not get a refugee hearing and could be returned to your country without your claim being heard. As well, you may be kept in immigration detention.

What if I have language difficulties at the eligibility interview?

If you do not understand English or French, a translator will be provided for you. If you need a translator and you do not have one, ask for one before the interview begins. If you have trouble understanding your translator, or if you think something might have been translated wrong, say something as soon as possible. It is important to have this noted, in case any information is misunderstood.

If you think there were translation problems or misunderstandings at your eligibility interview, you should talk to your lawyer or representative. You might want to say this in your BOC form or at your hearing.

What happens if I am eligible?

If you are eligible to make a refugee claim, your file will be sent to the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). This usually happens the same day you arrive in Canada after your eligibility interview, but can be up to three days later. This does not mean that you have refugee status–it is just the beginning of the process.

A CBSA officer will help you fill out the following immigration forms:

You will be given a Basis of Claim (BOC) form to complete and submit to the IRB. You only have 15 days to complete your BOC form once your file is sent to the IRB.

You will get the following documents:

  • a refugee document—the Refugee Protection Claim Document (RPCD)
  • a date for a hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB)
  • a health care document for Interim Federal Health coverage
  • a Medical Report to take to a doctor as part of your claim
  • a list of conditions
  • other immigration-related documents

What should I do next?

The next steps are very important for your claim. You do not have much time, so you must act quickly.

  1. Get legal help: It is very important to find legal help right away. You will need to meet with your lawyer or representative a few times to prepare your forms. Finding good and affordable help in time—such as a lawyer, paralegal or immigration consultant—may be difficult.
  2. Prepare your BOC form: Start completing your BOC form as soon as possible. You have to submit it 15 days after your claim is sent to the IRB. The BOC form can be difficult but is an important part of your claim. It needs to be as complete, clear and consistent as possible.
  3. Collect your documents: Start collecting your documents to support your claim right away. Identity and travel documents should be submitted with your BOC form, but only after they are reviewed by your legal representative. They need to match your BOC form and immigration forms. All other documents are due 10 days before your hearing. If your documents are in a language other than English or French, they must be translated.