Learn, Connect, and Prepare
Learn tips for how to work your way through the refugee process. Get good information. Stay connected to experts. Be prepared for each step.
Start your Refugee Claim
You can start your refugee claim when you arrive in Canada or once you are already in Canada. You may have many questions:
- How do I start my refugee claim?
- How long will the process take?
- What happens if my claim is refused?
- When will I be reunited with my family?
- How do I get help?
- Can I trust the Canadian Officer?
- Will they believe my story?
Do not worry! There are many people who can help you through the steps.
Get legal help
The refugee claim process can be long and difficult. Get legal help as soon as you can.
Once you decide to your claim, get legal help for your Basis of Claim (BOC) Form. You only have 45 days to do it and send it in. It takes time to work with a legal representative to put all the important facts in your BOC.
A legal representative can help you with all the forms and documents. They can go to the refugee hearing with you.
Be aware of your options
Do research and get legal advice before you start your claim. Make sure that a refugee claim is the best option for you. Understand how this decision may affect your future. There are risks. You may only get one chance to stay in Canada.
Slow down and take your time doing your BOC Form. The BOC is very important and you may have to talk about it at your hearing. The BOC must include all the important events in your life that show you are a refugee.
Take care of yourself
Making a refugee claim is hard work. Take things one step at a time. Remember to take care of yourself.
Prepare for your interview
Prepare before you tell your story at your eligibility interview. It is important that your facts never change during your claim. If you make a mistake, talk about it with your representative. Keep copies of all the documents.
Tell your story
You may have to tell your story many times to different people. They could be CBSA officers, IRCC officers, your legal representative, and the IRB-RPD Member at your hearing. This may make you feel nervous. But if you are always honest, you can feel confident, and your answers and facts will always match.
Advice from friends and relatives
Legal advice should be from your legal representative. Even advice from family and friends who made refugee claims may not be right for you. Sometimes people who try to help do not have enough experience. Each refugee claim is different. If you do not have a legal representative, find a settlement worker you can trust for information.
Prepare Your Information
Write down your story
It is helpful to write down your story. Include everywhere you worked, lived, and travelled in the last ten years. This can help you think about what evidence is important to your claim. Put in all details that may be important. More is better than less. The IRB-RPD may not like it if you hide information or if you add new information at your hearing.
Gather your evidence
Start gathering evidence for your claim:
- Documents that prove who you are
- Evidence that supports your case
- Documents that connect conditions in your country to your claim
- Letters or legal documents (affidavits) from people who can say your story is true
- Witnesses who can speak at your hearing
- Places you visited and the dates
- What government agency in your country you asked for help
- Other places you stayed in your country to avoid being treated badly
Try to get anything you need from your home country (your country or where you usually lived) as soon as possible. Getting police or hospital reports can take a long time. If you cannot get something, keep a record of how you tried to get it.
Review your documents and evidence
Someone may write a letter of support for you that does not match the information in your BOC Form. You may need to talk to the writer so you can explain at your hearing. Talk to your legal representative about what to do. It is very important that the IRB-RPD believes all the important parts of your story.
Translate all documents
All evidence must be translated into English or French. This takes time so do it as soon as possible. Check with your legal representative about what you need to get translated.
Keep a copy of all your documents
Keep photocopies of all your documents:
- Your BOC and other immigration forms
- Your narrative
- All evidence, applications, and letters that you or your legal representative give to the IRB, CBSA or IRCC
Get a file folder to keep your documents organized and safe. Keep your documents until you become a Canadian citizen.
Update your address
Always keep your address updated. This is important so you do not miss any information about your claim.
Work with Your Lawyer or Other Legal Representative
Get a legal representative
Apply for legal aid if it is available where you are. If possible, talk to an immigration lawyer before you apply.
Be open and honest with your legal representative. It will be difficult for them to help you if you hide information. They are your guide.
Prepare before every meeting with your legal representative. You may want to email them questions first or make a list of questions to take to the meeting. This will help you use your time well.
This is your refugee claim
Remember that this is YOUR claim for refugee protection. Even if you have a legal representative, you should be involved in all the steps before your hearing. Keep track of the deadlines. If you miss one, the IRB may say that you have abandoned your claim.
Take control of what you can. Make sure you understand the process. This will make you more comfortable with what happens.
Work with your legal representative
Know how and when to stay in contact with your legal representative. Always have a good reason to contact them. This will help you respect each other. Learn the type of person they are, so you can work well together. You are going through this together.
Your legal representative’s role
Know what your legal representative can and cannot do. Do not expect them to tell you if your claim will be accepted. The Member of the IRB-RPD decides that.
Change your legal representative
You have the right to change your legal representative if you think they are not helpful. If you are not comfortable, get a new representative. It is important to find someone you can trust.
Waiting is a normal part of making a refugee claim. You might have to wait to have your hearing or wait to learn if your claim is accepted.
Use waiting time to get ready for your hearing:
- Attend a Ready Tour with the IRB-RPD. You will learn how to prepare, meet IRB staff, learn what happens at the hearing and who will be there, and ask questions.
- Look over your BOC form, your narrative, and the evidence you sent in.
- Look for any information that does not match in your BOC, narrative, interview notes, evidence and other documents (including overseas visa applications). Tell your legal representative. You may want to send changes to the IRB-RPD.
- Keep up on the news from your country. If something happens that is related to your claim, tell your legal representative.
Use any waiting time to settle yourself and family members. You can:
- Improve your English or French
- Find a job
- Stay physically active
- Volunteer in the community
- Join a newcomer group
- Get to know your neighbours
Get the Support You Need
Connect to a settlement agency or other community services for help. They can help you look for a job, get a home, find language classes, sign up your children for school, and learn about free services for refugee claimants.
Interim Federal Health Program
As a refugee claimant, you can get health care from the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) including:
- hospital services,
- services from health-care professionals,
- vision and urgent dental care, and
- prescription drugs.
This continues until you can get regular health insurance or until you have to leave Canada.
Get mental health support
You may feel stressed during the refugee claimant process. You may also have experienced trauma in your home country, and during your journey to Canada. There are services in Canada that may be helpful for you. The IFHP provides some help for this.
Make new friends
Try to meet other refugee claimants or newcomers. With them, you can feel safe to share your experiences. Make new friends and keep in touch with your family and friends back home if you can.
Your Hearing Day
Take care of yourself
Take care of yourself the day before your hearing (for example, make sure you get enough sleep).
Be ready to answer questions about your claim. For example, you may be asked why you did not make your inland claim earlier than you did.
Members are people too
The Member at the IRB-RPD decides your claim. Each Member is different, each claim is different, and the mood at some hearings can be different than others. But every decision should be fair.
If you do not know something, or you are unsure, say so. Never make up an answer. Try to give as much information as you can to help the Member understand your story.
Work with an interpreter
The IRB-RPD will get you a free professional interpreter in your language and dialect for your hearing. Even if you understand English or French, it is a good idea to have an interpreter to avoid mistakes. The interpreter makes sure that everyone in your hearing understands each other clearly. Before your hearing starts, speak with your interpreter to make sure that you understand each other well. When you talk during the hearing, speak in short phrases for the interpreter.
Most refugee hearings are virtual (videoconference) hearings. You will need:
- Reliable, secure, high-speed internet
- Microsoft Teams software
- A quiet and private space
If your hearing is scheduled as a videoconference, you can ask IRB-RPD for an in-person hearing. Some hearings are both.
After Your Hearing
The Member may decide about your claim at the end of your hearing. Or they may say they will send you their decision in the mail. This can be stressful, but it does not mean you are more likely to be refused.
If you are refused
There are legal options if your claim is refused. Talk to your legal representative.
Apply to be a permanent resident
If your refugee claim is accepted, apply right away for permanent residency. Do this for yourself and your family members. If you delay, you may have problems such as having to renew your work permit. Remember, if you get refugee protection, you cannot go back to your home country. If you do, the government may send your claim back to the IRB-RPD for another hearing.