The term “refugee” applies to individuals who have made a refugee claim in Canada AND been found in need of protection by the IRB. A refugee can also be someone overseas in need of protection, who is outside their home country and has been resettled in Canada.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has two main refugee programs: the Resettlement Program for people seeking protection from outside Canada and the In-Canada Asylum Program for people making asylum claims within Canada. Refugees must qualify for entry under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and must pass medical and security screening before they are admitted to Canada. Visa officers abroad will review the application and may interview applicants to find out if they qualify


Under the Canada-Quebec Accord, the Quebec government selects the refugees who settle in Quebec. CIC is responsible for determining whether a person selected by Quebec qualifies as a refugee based on Canadian immigration regulations.

Government-Assisted Refugees are Convention Refugees Abroad whose initial resettlement in Canada is entirely supported by the Government of Canada or Quebec. This support is delivered by CIC-supported non-governmental agencies. Support can last up to one year from the date of arrival in Canada, or until the refugee is able to support himself or herself. It may include:

  • accommodation;
  • clothing;
  • food;
  • help in finding employment and becoming self-supporting; and other resettlement assistance.

Convention Refugees are people who can’t return to their home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on:

  • race
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • nationality
  • or membership in a particular social group, such as women or sexual orientation.

Canada relies on referral organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and private sponsorship groups to refer Convention Refugees Abroad to be resettled in Canada.

Privately Sponsored Refugees are sponsored and resettled by Canadians and permanent residents. Sponsors are groups that commit to providing financial settlement assistance to refugees for one year or until they can support themselves. This assistance includes: accommodation, clothing and food. Sponsors also provide emotional assistance.

Canada offers refugee protection to In-Canada Asylum Claimants who fear persecution or whose removal from Canada would subject them to a danger of torture, a risk to their life or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

If a CIC or CBSA officer decides that a refugee claim is eligible, it will be referred to the Refugee Protection Division of the IRB for a hearing.

A refugee claimant may not be eligible for referral to the IRB if they:

  • Are recognized as a refugee by another country to which they can return;
  • Arrived via the United States - a safe country where the claimant could have sought asylum.
  • Are inadmissible to Canada on security grounds, or because of criminal activity or human rights violations
  • Made a previous refugee claim that was rejected by the IRB; or
  • Abandoned or withdrew a previous refugee claim.

If the IRB accepts the claim, the claimant will receive the status of “protected person.” This means they can stay in Canada and can apply to become a permanent resident. If the claim is rejected, the claimant has 15 days to apply to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the IRB decision.

Canada does not want to send people back to a country where they will be in danger or would face the risk of persecution.

A person whose refugee claim or a permanent resident application is refused may apply for a Pre-removal Risk Assessment (PRRA). A PRRA officer will consider:

  • risk of persecution as defined in the Geneva Convention;
  • risk of torture; and
  • risk to life or the risk that an individual may be subjected to cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

The Citizenship and Immigration Canada Help Page is a good place to start looking for answers to questions about the immigration or citizenship processes that are not provided here. The topics A-Z index will help you find answers to such common inquiries as how to renew your Permanent Resident Card and how to sponsor family members for immigration to Canada.

This story is from the "CIC: Know the Rules, Take the Lead" InfoBlock. To read more stories on this topic, click here.