April 27, 2020

Making a Refugee Claim During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted by Legal Team - Bellissimo Law Group PC

Update: As of 20 August 2020, this policy has been extended to 21 September 2020.

Note: Canadian immigration and refugee policy is changing day-by day due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The information below may become out-of-date in the near future. Further, initiating a refugee claim may have negative consequences for your immigration options, especially if it is not done in a careful manner. You should consult a lawyer for professional advice before proceeding with any strategy for status in Canada.

Inland Claims

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has temporarily suspended its normal procedures for making a refugee claim from inside Canada or at the Canadian border.

Persons already physically present in Canada are still able to make inland claims. All new inland refugee claims should be initiated by email at IRCC.RefugeeClaim-Demandedasile.IRCC@cic.gc.ca instead of going to a physical office.[1] Emailing this address will automatically return a list of required information and documentation. Claimants who provide the requested material will be issued an Acknowledgement of Claim, confirming that the claimant is covered by the Interim Federal Health Program and that an eligibility interview will be scheduled once physical immigration offices are reopened. For now, the timelines and procedures that will follow the COVID-19 pandemic are unclear.

From 20 April 2020 to 21 May 2020, persons entering from the United States of America will be allowed to enter Canada, but ONLY if they enter through a designated US-Canada land border Port of Entry, and ALSO meet at least one of the following nine sets of conditions:[2]

  1. The claimant been refused entry to the USA without any refugee assessment by the USA;
  2. The claimant is stateless, and is not a citizen of any country.
  3. The claimant has a family member in Canada who:
    1. is related to the claimant in one of the following ways:
      • Spouse
      • Common-law partner
      • Legal guardian
      • Child
      • Parent
      • Grandparent
      • Sibling
      • Uncle or aunt
      • Nephew or niece
    2. AND has the following valid status in Canada:
      • Citizen
      • Permanent resident
      • Protected person
      • Worker, unless they only have this status because their removal order is unenforceable
      • Student
      • Person whose removal order has been stayed
      • Person with an ongoing refugee claim (i.e. not rejected, withdrawn, abandoned, or terminated for eligibility reasons)
  4. The claimant is under 18 years old, single, and has no parent or legal guardian in Canada or the USA;
  5. The claimant needs a visa to enter the USA, but not Canada;
  6. The claimant holds one of the following documents, and it was not issued for the sole purpose of transit through Canada:
    • Permanent resident visa;
    • Temporary resident visa;
    • Permanent resident travel document;
    • Temporary resident permit;
    • Refugee travel papers;
    • Special temporary travel document issued under s. 151 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations;
  7. The claimant is a Canadian permanent resident ordered removed from the USA;
  8. The claimant is a US citizen;
  9. The claimant is charged in another country with an offence punishable by the death penalty;
  10. The claimant is “determined by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness or the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to be in the national or public interest”.

Overseas Refugee Claims

Overseas refugee sponsorship programs “impacted by the travel restrictions” have been temporarily paused. Processing of overseas claims will resume “as conditions permit”.[3]