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All you need to know as a refugee or refugee claimant in Canada

By Maria Montemayor

Posted on May 24, 2021

Group of women

As reported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in 2019, Canada was ranked No. 1 (out of 26 countries) in refugee resettlement. Refugees tend to thrive in Canada, with 51 percent of working refugees employed in high-skilled jobs and 95 percent of refugees feeling a strong sense of belonging to Canada.

In order to become a refugee to Canada, individuals have to be identified and sponsored (if they are outside of Canada) or make a refugee claim (if they are inside Canada). Once in Canada, refugees have access to various programs and resources to assist them in their adjustment and success.

The Canadian refugee system

Canada has two main refugee protection programs: the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program and the In-Canada Asylum Program.

  • The Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program is for individuals who need protection from outside of Canada. The UNHCR and private sponsors determine who the refugees for resettlement are. An individual cannot directly apply to Canada for resettlement.
  • The In-Canada Asylum offers refugee protection to individuals in Canada who fear persecution (convention refugees) or are in danger of torture or harsh punishment in their countries of origin (persons in need of protection).

Making a refugee claim

email refugee claim

If you are inside Canada, you can make a refugee claim by writing an email to or by applying for refugee status at any port of entry when you arrive in Canada (land border, seaport, or airport).

If you make your claim by email, your subject line should say: “Request to make a Refugee Claim in Canada: (unique client identifier or passport number).” The body of your email should only include your name, email address, and your unique client identifier (UCI), which can be found on your visa or permit or your passport number. You’ll get an email asking you to sign up for an account. After that, you can complete the application package.

If you apply at a port of entry, you will receive the application package there. Once you finish your refugee hearing, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) approves or rejects your refugee claim. If your claim is accepted, you’ll receive the “Protected Person” status, which allows you to reside in Canada and apply to become a permanent resident.​

What if my application is rejected?

If your refugee claim is rejected, you have several options to stay in Canada. You can:

All options are subject to eligibility.

Refugee programs and resources

There are many programs and resources available for refugees in Canada related to employment, training, mentorship, settlement, counselling, and youth development.

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