Can I apply for refugee status as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or questioning (LGBTQ+) person?

You may be able to apply for refugee status if you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or questioning (LGBTQ+).

You can seek refugee status in Canada on the basis of more than one category. You can apply for asylum if you have a well-founded fear of persecution in your home country based on:

  • Race;
  • Religion;
  • Nationality;
  • Political opinion; or
  • Being a member of a particular social group, e.g. LGBTQ+, women, HIV-positive people.

If you are involved in LGBTQ+ activism, or even HIV activism, you may also be able to claim refugee status on the basis of political opinion.

Do I have to be "out" as an LGBTQ+ person to claim asylum?

"Being out" as an LGBTQ+ person means identifying yourself as part of this group and disclosing this to other people.

You do not have to be "out" as LGBTQ+ in your country or have already experienced persecution to claim refugee status. To make a decision on your claim, the IRB will consider what could happen to you if you return to your country. You should be aware, however, that you might have to prove you are LGBTQ+.

Before making a refugee claim, you should speak with a lawyer. It is important to find a lawyer who practices the type of law related to your situation and that understands LGBTQ+ and refugee issues. You should feel comfortable enough to share sensitive and personal information that may be relevant to your claim. Before hiring your lawyer, ask whether they have experience representing LGBTQ+ clients.

To find out more about Canada's refugee system, read How does Canada's refugee system work?

For More Information

  • Your Refugee Hearing - This website has practical information to help you prepare for a hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board. It also offers an online tour of a hearing room. From CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario).
  • Lesbian and Gay Immigration Taskforce (LEGIT) - Information for same-sex individuals and couples who are sponsoring a partner, immigrating to Canada, or claiming refugee status due to their sexuality.
  • You Are Among Friends [PDF] - A collection of stories, experiences, resources, and information shared by members of LGBTQ+ newcomer communities in Ontario. From Access Alliance Multicultural Health Centre.
  • EGALE - A Canadian LGBTQ+ human rights organization that advances equality, diversity, education and justice.
  • Positive Spaces Initiative Community Links - A listing of resources for the LGBTQ+ community including advocacy groups, health services, support groups, public education, family services, faith groups and more.
Last updated: September 26, 2016 4001591