Abandoned claim

If you miss your Basis of Claim (BOC) Form deadline or your refugee hearing, the IRB-RPD may say your claim is “abandoned.” This means that you will not be allowed to continue with your claim or make another claim in the future. If your claim is “abandoned,” you can apply to have it re-opened, but this is very difficult.

Alternative to Detention (ATD)

An option given to people who are detained for immigration reasons. They are released from detention but stay connected to the Canadian government through conditions such as regular reporting or paying a bond. The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada – Immigration Division (IRB-ID) decides these conditions.


A person whose refugee claim is rejected by the IRB-RPD and who appeals (asks) the IRB-RAD for a review.

Asylum seeker

The word used around the world to describe a person who leaves their country to find refugee protection in another country. In Canada, the term refugee claimant is used instead. It usually means a person who has applied for refugee protection to the Government of Canada.

Basis of Claim (BOC) Form

The Basis of Claim form is the most important document for your refugee claim. Refugee claimants must complete a BOC Form early in their refugee claim process. The form asks for information that helps the IRB-RPD decide your claim.

Basis of Claim amendment

Any change you need to make to your BOC Form after you send it in. You must underline every change and attach a declaration that says the information is complete, true, and correct. Give your BOC amendments to the IRB-RPD no later than ten days before your refugee hearing.

Biometric Instructions Letter (BIL)

A letter that says you must have fingerprints and photos taken (your biometrics).

Calgary Legal Guidance (CLG)

A non-profit legal organization that gives free legal help to people In Alberta who cannot pay for services.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)

Canada’s border police force. At ports of entry, CBSA decides who can make a refugee claim, and sends their information to the IRB.

CBSA controls Canada’s borders and decides who can enter Canada and who must leave. CBSA removes refugee claimants from Canada if their refugee claim is rejected, and they have no other legal options to remain in Canada.

Community Legal Assistance Services For Saskatoon Inner City (CLASSIC)

An organization that provides free, professional, and confidential legal services for people in Saskatoon who face poverty and injustice and cannot afford legal advice or a lawyer.

Convention Refugee

A person who meets the refugee definition in the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees. This definition is used in Canadian law and is widely accepted around the world. To meet the definition, a person must be outside their home country and have good reasons to fear being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

To be accepted as a Convention Refugee in Canada, a Member of the Immigration and Refugee Board – Refugee Protection Division (IRB-RPD) must also decide that:

  • Your government cannot protect you
  • You are truly afraid to return to your country
  • You have good reason to be afraid based on the situation in your country
  • You cannot live safely or properly in any part of your country
  • You can make a refugee claim in Canada.
De Facto Family Members

Persons who do not meet IRCC’s definition of a family class member, such as a son or daughter over the age of 22.


A person that is less than 22 years of age and is not a spouse or common-law partner, or a person that is 22 years of age or older and has depended substantially on the financial support of the parent since before attaining the age of 22 years and is unable to be financially self-supporting due to a physical or mental condition.

Designated Foreign National (DFN)

A person who arrives in Canada as part of a group of people that the Canadian Government sees as a group of “irregular arrivals.” DFNs have special rules that apply to their claim process and detention.

Designated Representative

A person chosen by the IRB-RPD to protect the interests of a child under 18 years old or an adult who cannot understand the refugee process or other process with the IRB on their own. The Designated Representative is usually a parent, legal guardian, family member, or friend. When none of these are available, the IRB-RPD will hire someone.


Hold in custody in an Immigration Holding Centre or at a provincial or territorial jail.

Edmonton Community Legal Centre (ECLC)

An organization that provides free legal information and advice to people with low to moderate incomes in the Edmonton area.

Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN)

An organization for newcomers to find work, learn English, get settled, and join a community in the Edmonton area.

Eligibility interview

An interview with an officer who works for the Canada Border Services Agency or Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. You give personal information that helps decide if you are allowed to make a refugee claim in Canada.


Any information that can support your claim. It can be documents, letters, newspaper articles, medical or psychological reports, photographs, audio recordings, or even videos.

Excluded person

A person who cannot be a “Convention Refugee” or a “Protected Person.” For example:

  • A person who has committed a serious crime outside of Canada
  • A person who has the right to be a permanent resident or citizen in another safe country.

People who are excluded from making a refugee claim may instead apply for a pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA).

File review process (FRP)

A process at the IRB-RPD for refugee claims that can be accepted without a hearing or will likely be accepted after a short hearing. The IRB-RPD will tell you if they select your claim for this process.

Humanitarian and compassionate application (H&C)

A person who does not qualify to be a permanent resident in Canada under an immigration program may be allowed to apply for permanent residence for humanitarian and compassionate reasons. This does not happen often. The IRCC looks at:

  • How settled the person is in Canada
  • General family ties to Canada
  • The best interests of any children involved, and
  • The hardship that the person would face if they must leave Canada to apply for permanent residence.

The IRCC will not look at the risk factors that are part of a refugee claim or a pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA).

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada – Immigration Appeal Division (IRB-IAD)

One of four divisions of the IRB. This division handles immigration appeals, including appeals having to do with sponsorships, removal orders, and removal of permanent residence.

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada – Immigration Division (IRB-ID)

One of four divisions of the IRB. If you are detained, the IRB-ID will hold your detention review hearing and decide if you will be released or remain in detention.

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada – Refugee Appeal Division (IRB-RAD)

One of four divisions of the IRB. If the IRB-RPD rejects your claim for refugee protection, you may be able to appeal (ask for a review) at the IRB-RAD.

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada – Refugee Protection Division (IRB-RPD)

One of four divisions of the IRB. If CBSA or IRCC say you can make a refugee claim, they send your information to the IRB-RPD. The IRB-RPD holds the refugee hearing and decides your claim.

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB)

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) is a large independent tribunal (a special type of court). It is responsible for making fair decisions on immigration and refugee matters including who needs refugee protection. There are four divisions of the IRB: IRB-RPD, IRB-RAD, IRB-ID, IRB-IAD.

Immigration and Refugee Legal Clinic (IRLC)

Based in Vancouver, an organization that provides free legal advice and representation for people with low incomes in BC. They focus on helping individuals and families whose immigration or refugee legal issues are not covered in the traditional legal aid system.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA)

The main law about immigration to and refugee claims in Canada, used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Canada Border Services Agency.

Immigration Holding Centre (IHC)

A facility where you can be detained for immigration reasons.

Immigration Medical Exam (IME)

A medical exam you must have as part of the refugee claim process to make sure there are no public health or safety concerns about you being in Canada.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)

IRCC has the overall responsibility for immigration and refugee matters in Canada. It oversees the arrival of immigrants, issues visitor visas, work and study permits, and grants citizenship. IRCC decides who can make a refugee protection claim within Canada and sends claims to the IRB for a decision.

Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP)

The program that gives some temporary health-care benefits to people who do not qualify for provincial or territorial health insurance, including refugee claimants.

Internal Flight Alternative (IFA)

A legal issue in the refugee claim process. An IFA is a city or region you could safely move to in your home country. In your refugee claim process, you must show it is not safe for you to live in any part of the country you left.

Law Students’ Legal Advice Program (LSLAP)

A non-profit program run by law students at the University of British Columbia. They provide free legal advice and representation to clients in the Greater Vancouver Area who are unable to afford legal help.

Legal Aid Alberta (LAA)

A publicly funded, non-profit organization that provides affordable legal services to people in Alberta.

Legal Aid British Columbia (LABC)

A non-profit organization that provides legal information, advice, and representation services to people in British Columbia.

Legal Aid Manitoba (LAM)

An organization that gives legal representation to people in Manitoba who qualify.

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO)

An organization that provides legal help for people with low incomes in Ontario.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer (LGBTQ)

Terms to refer to a person’s sexual orientation.

Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC)

An organization that welcomes and provides settlement services for refugees and immigrants living in Manitoba.


Also known as the Board Member or Decision Maker, this person works for the IRB-RPD and decides on your claim for refugee protection. Other IRB divisions also have Members who decide various issues.


This is the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada or the Minister of Public Safety. They are represented by the Minister’s Counsel in the refugee process and at other hearings before the IRB.

Minister’s Counsel

A representative of the CBSA (representing the Minister of Public Safety) or IRCC (representing the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship). The Minister’s Counsel may take part in your refugee claim and in other processes before the IRB.

National Documentation Package (NDP)

Lists of public documents about a country that give information on country conditions. The IRB prepares these packages. NDPs are used as evidence during a refugee claim.

Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)

Also known as settlement agencies, service providers, and community organizations, these organizations support refugee claimants in Canada in many different ways and are not associated with the government of Canada.

Notary Public

Also known simply as a “notary,” this person can act as an official witness to the signing of legal documents. A notary can also say that documents are exact replicas of the original. In the presence of a notary, a witness or other support person to your case, can swear their statement is true.

Notice of Decision

A Notice of Decision is a written notice that you get in the mail or by email. It tells you if the IRB-RPD accepted or rejected your claim and gives the reasons for the decision.

Notice to Appear (NTA)

The multipage letter you get from the IRB-RPD that tells you a hearing date has been scheduled and that you must attend.

Permanent resident

Someone who can live permanently in Canada but is not a Canadian citizen. Permanent residents are citizens of other countries and have the right to enter Canada.

A person in Canada temporarily, such as a student or worker, is not a permanent resident.

Refugees who are resettled from overseas become permanent residents through the Government-Assisted Refugee Program or the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.

Someone who makes a refugee claim in Canada does not become a permanent resident at that time. After the Immigration and Refugee Board approves their claim, they must apply for permanent resident status.


Serious harm that threatens or violates human rights and that is repeated or continuous. The legal definition is complicated. Ask a lawyer how the definition applies to your refugee claim. Examples are torture, beatings, death threats, forced sterilization, forced female circumcision, forced marriage, imprisonment for non-violent political activities, and sexual assault.

Person in Need of Protection

A person who does not meet the Convention Refugee definition, but still needs protection. A person in Canada who would be at risk if they were sent back to their country of nationality or the country where they usually lived (if they do not have a country of nationality). This could be because of the danger of torture by the authorities in their country, or a risk to their life, or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

To be a Person in Need of Protection in Canada, the Member of the IRB-RPD who is hearing your case, must also decide that:

  • your government cannot protect you,
  • you cannot live safely or properly in any other part of the country,
  • you are at risk but not everyone in your country has this risk,
  • the risk is not because your country wants to punish you for an act that is a crime in Canada,
  • the risk is not because of poor medical care in your country, and
  • you are eligible to make a refugee claim.
Port of Entry (POE)

A place where a person may legally enter Canada, such as at an airport, or a sea or land border crossing.

Pre-removal Risk Assessment (PRRA)

An IRCC process that decides whether a person would face persecution, torture, risk to life, or risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment, if returned to their home country.

Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan (PBLS)

A non-profit, non-government organization that provides free legal advice to clients with low incomes in Saskatchewan. PBLS operates and partners with 14 free legal clinics across Saskatchewan. PBLS tries to fill the gap of legal services between government-funded legal aid and hiring a private lawyer.

Programme régional d’accueil et d’intégration des demandeurs d’asile (PRAIDA)

An organization that supports the well-being of refugee claimants and their families while respecting their rights and dignity. Its mission is to help with the settlement of refugee claimants in Quebec.

Protected person

A person who is:

  • A Convention refugee or a person in similar circumstances, as decided by a Canadian visa officer outside Canada,
  • A Convention refugee or a Person in Need of Protection in Canada, as decided by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, or
  • A person whose pre-removal risk assessment was approved (in most cases).
Ready Tour

A free learning event for refugee claimants to help them get ready for their refugee hearings. Register here.

Refugee claimant

A person who has applied for refugee protection in Canada and is waiting for a decision on their claim from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada – Refugee Protection Division.

Refugee Protection Claimant Document (RPCD)

The document you get after your refugee claim is sent to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). This confirms that you made a refugee claim and if you qualify for health coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP).

Refugee travel document

A document that can be given to people in Canada who have protected-person status to use for travel outside Canada, instead of a passport. The refugee travel document can be used to travel anywhere except the country the person is a citizen of or the country they left because of persecution.

Removal order

An order made against a person that says they must leave Canada. CBSA officers or the IRB make three types of removal orders:

  • Departure Order – Made against people who have violated Canada’s immigration laws. The person named on a departure order must leave Canada within 30 days. If they do not, the departure order becomes a deportation order.
  • Exclusion Order – Usually means the person cannot return to Canada for one year without written permission. Someone who gets an exclusion order for misrepresentation cannot return for five years without written permission.
  • Deportation Order – Means the person must leave Canada because of a serious offence or violation of Canada’s immigration laws. A person deported from Canada may not return without written permission from the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
Safe third country

A country where a person can safely make a refugee claim (other than Canada and the country they left because of persecution). In Canada, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act describes what makes a country a safe third country.

Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA)

The agreement between Canada and the United States that says both countries are safe for people who need refugee protection. You must ask for help in the first one you enter. This is true if you try to enter Canada at any point along the Canada/USA border. You can only make a refugee claim if you qualify for an “exception” to the STCA rules. If you cross at an unofficial entry place and ask to make a refugee claim within 14 days, you will be returned to the USA unless you qualify for an exception. Get legal advice before you try to cross into Canada from the USA wherever you plan to enter.

Settlement Agency

Settlement agencies give support and services to new immigrants and refugees in Canada. Many of the services are free. All information is kept private. These agencies help you:

  • find housing and employment,
  • get English or French classes,
  • complete documents and applications, and
  • get information about other community services, schools, and health care.
Settlement Worker

Settlement workers generally work at a settlement agency and provide one-on-one help to new immigrants and refugees for their personal settlement needs.

Short hearing

The IRB-RPD schedules two-hour hearings when they believe there are only one or two issues about a refugee claim that need to be reviewed.

Social Group

A person may make a refugee claim based on their “membership in a particular social group.” In Canada, there are three possible types of social groups:

  • members have an unchangeable characteristic (for example, gender),
  • members voluntarily group together for reasons so important to their human dignity that they should not be forced apart (for example, human rights activists), and
  • members grouped together voluntarily at first, but their group is now unchangeable because of its history.
Social Insurance Number (SIN)

A 9-digit number from Service Canada that you need if you want to work in Canada or use government programs and benefits.

Special hearing

A hearing to decide if your refugee claim will be declared “abandoned.”

You must attend a “special hearing” if you miss the deadline for sending in your BOC form. You must explain why you were late. If you do not go to this special hearing or do not give a good reason, your claim may be seen as abandoned. Information about the date, time, and location of your special hearing is on your Confirmation of Referral if your claim was made at a port of entry.

You get a Notice to Appear with the date, time, and location of your refugee hearing. If you do not go to your hearing, you must attend a special hearing to explain why you did not go. Information about the date, time, and location of the special hearing on abandonment will also be on the Notice to Appear. If you do not go to the special hearing or give a good reason for missing your refugee hearing, your claim may be seen as abandoned. If the RPD says your claim is abandoned, you cannot continue with your claim or make another claim in the future.

Stateless person

A person who is not recognized as a citizen by any country. Many stateless people do not have passports and have trouble proving their identity. Not all stateless people are refugees and not all refugees are stateless.


Your official immigration category a country gives you, such as citizen, permanent resident, protected person, worker, visitor, or student.

Translator’s declaration

The person who translated a document must sign and date a statement saying that they accurately translated the entire document from its original language into English or French.


The IRB-RPD is a tribunal, not a court. Although tribunals may look like courts, they are not part of the court system. They are generally less formal and operate faster than the court system. Decision makers at the IRB-RPD tribunal are specially trained to decide refugee claims.

Unique Client Identifier (UCI)

This is the first identification number given to you by the government of Canada. It is also known as a client identification number (client ID) and is either 8 or 10 digits long.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to ensuring that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find a place to live safely. UNHCR works on behalf of refugees, communities that were forced to move, and stateless people. The UNHCR has offices in Canada.

Vulnerable person

A vulnerable person is someone who would struggle with a regular refugee hearing. They need changes to the hearing procedure to allow them to take part in a meaningful way. A person may be vulnerable because of illness, age, or because their experiences have been so awful that they have trouble describing what happened. For example, if you know you easily become overwhelmed and confused, you may ask for frequent breaks. If you are a woman who has experienced sexual assault that would be hard to describe to a man, you may ask for a female Member and interpreter. If you are badly distressed by past events, you can ask for a Member who is especially sensitive to the effects of trauma.

If you are a vulnerable person, you or your lawyer should tell the IRB-RPD immediately. Let the IRB-RPD know what changes to the hearing would make it easier for you to take part. In some cases, it is helpful to support your request with a letter from a doctor. If the IRB-RPD decides you are vulnerable, they will make special arrangements for you.