Refugee Law

Claiming refugee protection can be a challenging task for most newcomers, understandably so. This is especially considering the dire circumstances in which most newcomers arrive in Canada: in a foreign country, often without the support of those who speak the same language, adequate housing, and separation from family and friends in their countries of origin. Foreign nationals can seek asylum once inside Canada, either at a port of entry (e.g., international airport) or after arrival directly to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Definition of a Convention Refugee

The independent body or tribunal that ultimately makes the decision as to whether someone is a Convention refugee and/or person in need of protection is the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). Convention refugee is defined as someone who has a well-founded fear of persecution based on one of the five enumerated grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. A person in need of protection is defined as a person whose removal to their country of nationality or habitual residence, would subject them to a danger of torture or risk to their life or a risk of cruel and unusual punishment. There are more details and conditions that apply to these general definitions.


Refugee claims are initially made to the IRCC which then conducts an eligibility interview to determine whether the claim can be referred to the IRB. The IRB then provides the claimant with the opportunity to provide supporting documentation in support of their claim for protection. Once an individual claims refugee protection, there are strict deadlines that follow which means correct forms and supporting documentation must be submitted on time. Failing to do so would prejudice the claim and can even lead to a negative determination, such as a finding that the claimant has ‘abandoned’ their claim. Refugee claimants must ensure that they meet the deadlines in place and most importantly, must ensure that they provide adequate supporting documentation.

What to Consider

There are many factors to consider before applying for refugee protection, including eligibility. Delay in seeking protection can also negatively impact the outcome of your claim, which is why it is crucial to speak to a lawyer who can first help you understand the process, determine whether you are eligible to seek refugee protection, and assist with completing the proper forms on time. The most important document for every refugee claimant is a Basis of Claim form, which outlines the specifics of your claim and explains why you are seeking protection in Canada, among other things. It is imperative that you seek legal representation in order to assist with completing this form and ensuring that you are completing it accurately, and providing sufficient, relevant information. Your lawyer would then guide you through the entire process from beginning to end. This would include determining which supporting documentation you need to prove your case, and preparation for your refugee hearing, which is the most important event in the claim process. Each case is unique, and every claimant would require different supporting documentation, and your lawyer can help with this very important step.

Once your claim is heard, the IRB then makes a decision. If the IRB determines that you are a Convention Refugee and/or person in need of protection, you would be provided with a decision in writing and can then apply for permanent residence status. However, if the IRB determines that you are not a Convention refugee and/or a person in need of protection, your claim will be refused and you will need to seek legal advice on what your options are. Depending on the reasons for refusal, there may be statutory rights of appeal for those whose claims are refused by the IRB. Your lawyer can assist in determining which route of appeal is most appropriate.

The refugee claim process can seem difficult. However, with the right level of support and guidance from a legal professional, you will be better equipped to deal with the complexities that may arise. If you require assistance with your refugee matter, we urge you to contact our office to speak with a refugee lawyer. At JMS Law, we also accept legally aided refugee claimants.

Our Refugee Law Team

Pantea Samei
Pantea Samei