How is a refugee claim decision made?

Refugee claims are heard in Immigrant and Refugee Board (IRB) tribunals. These hearings aim to provide a well-reasoned decision on whether you can be granted refugee status in Canada.

The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB)

The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) is an independent administrative tribunal that makes decisions on immigration and refugee matters. The department of the IRB that hears refugee claims is the Refugee Protection Division (RPD), which is responsible for deciding who is granted refugee protection among the claimants who come to Canada each year.

IRB Hearings

If you are eligible for an IRB hearing, you will be responsible for preparing your case in a way that demonstrates you are a convention refugee or a person in need of protection. As a claimant, you will need to supply evidence and explain yourself in a way that demonstrates your story is true. If you are applying for refugee status, it is strongly recommended that you contact a lawyer or a Community Legal Clinic.

During the hearing, the decision maker, who is also known as the member, will look at:

  • Your evidence;
  • Your explanation for seeking refugee status;
  • The information you provide in the hearing; and
  • Your Basis of Claim (BoC) form and other documentation.

The member may also ask you questions about the facts in your claim to better understand your case.

Hearings are held in English or French, although a translator can be requested if you speak a different language. Although most hearings are held in-person, some are conducted through a video-conference. You also have the right to be represented by counsel, which is usually a lawyer, immigration consultant, or other knowledgeable individual.

Note that claimants from countries that are on the Designated Countries of Origin (DCO) list have different timelines than other claimants.

Some aspects of your claim that the member may consider when making a decision include:

  • If you would be safe in a different part of your home country.
  • Your membership in a social group.
  • The conditions in the country you come from.
  • If you tried to get protection in your home country before coming to Canada.
  • The credibility of your story, for example, if the facts are consistent.
  • The likelihood you would experience harm if you returned to your home country.
  • Whether your fear of persecution is objective.

The member may tell you whether or not you have been successful at the end of the hearing or later, by mail. If your claim was successful, you can apply for Permanent Residency status with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). If your claim was not successful, you may have other options to explore.

For More Information

  • Claimant Guide - This guide includes information on the refugee claim process, as well as definitions of commonly used terms. From the Immigration and Refugee Board.
  • Legal Aid for IRB Hearings - Some claimants may be eligible for legal assistance. This website includes contact information and a short description of the certificate program. From Legal Aid Ontario.
  • RefugeeClaim.ca - This multilingual resource provides a simple explanation of what you can do to prepare for your hearing. From Kinbrace Community Society.
  • The Refugee Law Office - The Refugee Law Office (RLO) in Toronto helps some refugee claimants with their hearings. From Legal Aid Ontario.
  • Refugee Rights in Ontario - Detailed information about how to make a refugee claim, what services are available to refugee claimants and where to find legal help. From Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO).
Last updated: January 27, 2017 4001606