Starting the Refugee Claim

Common Questions

You may start your refugee claim upon arrival in Canada or once you are already within Canada. You may have questions including:

  • How do I start my refugee claim?
  • How long will the process take?
  • What will happen to me if I receive a negative decision?
  • When will I be reunited with my family?
  • How do I get help?
  • Can I trust the Canadian Officer?
  • Will they believe my story?

These are common questions that many people in your situation have. It is very normal to have limited or no knowledge of the refugee claim process. The answers to the above questions vary based on the individual circumstances. There are many people who may help you through the steps.

Prepare for your eligibility interview

Be well prepared for your eligibility interview and remember to keep copies of all the documents. Consistency is key through the refugee claim process.

Be aware of your options

Do research and get legal advice before you start your claim. Ensure that making a refugee claim is the best option for you and be aware of the potential risks when you start a refugee claim. Certain policies can impact your decision and the consequences (i.e. if you arrived at Canada’s port of entry from the United States you may be ineligible to make a refugee claim in Canada and may be sent back).

Slow down

Slow down and take your time when completing your BOC. The BOC is very important evidence at your refugee hearing and you may be cross examined on the information in your story. The BOC should include all the events in your life to meet the definition of a refugee. 

Manage your expectations

This can be a complex and lengthy process. In most cases, you only have one chance to ask for refugee protection, so take things one step at a time. Make sure you take care of your own physical and emotional wellbeing.

Telling your story

You may have to tell your story many times to many different people, including CBSA officers, IRCC officers, your legal representative and the Member at your hearing. This may make you feel vulnerable – prepare yourself, as this may be difficult. Be 100% honest. If you are honest at every point, then your answers will be consistent.

Advice from friends and relatives

Beware who gives you advice about your refugee claim. Legal advice should be from your legal representative. Advice and information from family and friends who have been through the refugee determination process may not be good for you, as each refugee claim is determined on its own merits. If you do not have a legal representative, get information from a trusted settlement worker.