Claiming asylum upon arrival at a Canadian airport
You can ask for asylum when you arrive in Canada at the airport. Immigration officers of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Canada’s law enforcement agency responsible for border control, will take your photo and fingerprints, verify your identity, do a security screening and ask you some questions. They will also tell you about the next steps to follow for your asylum application.
To complete the first part of your asylum claim, you will either:
- be asked to complete application forms at the airport with the assistance of a CBSA officer;
- be given an interview appointment with an immigration officer at a later date to complete the application;
- or be given 45 days to complete the application forms online, which you could complete on your own or with legal assistance.
If you are given an interview date with an immigration officer to complete the application process, note that you can get an earlier interview date by completing the applications forms online.
Claiming asylum at the land border
If you are coming from the United States and wish to claim asylum at the Canadian border, you should know that some restrictions apply.
Under the Canada–U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) and its Protocol, you cannot make a claim at the Canadian border and will be turned back to the U.S., unless you qualify for an exception to the Agreement. The STCA applies to you regardless of whether you made your claim at an official land border post or if you crossed in-between official land border posts.
If you claim asylum at an official land border post, immigration officers of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Canada’s law enforcement agency responsible for border control, will take your photo and fingerprints, verify your identity and do a security screening. They will also ask you some questions to determine whether you qualify under an STCA exception and can make an asylum claim in Canada. If so, they will let you enter Canada and give you instructions on how to submit your asylum application. If not, they will not let you enter Canada and turn you back to the U.S.
If you claim asylum after crossing the U.S.-Canada border irregularly in-between official land border posts, you will be intercepted by the police and questioned about your entry. You will then be transferred to CBSA, who will follow the same steps mentioned above.
- List of STCA exceptions
Under the Canada–U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) and its Protocol, you can claim asylum at the Canada land border if you qualify for one of the following exceptions:
- You are a U.S. citizen;
- You are a stateless person and have lived in the U.S. for a significant period of time;
- You have a valid Canadian visa, a work permit or a study permit;
- You are under 18 and your parents are not in the United States;
- You face the death penalty in your country or the United States;
- You have close family members who are living in Canada.
- You crossed the Canadian border irregularly in-between official land border posts and claim asylum 14 days passed your arrival in Canada;
Check the government’s for a full detailed list of exceptions.
- Proving your links to family members in Canada
One exception of the Canada–U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) is having a close family member in Canada. You must prove your relationship to family members already living in Canada.
The STCA recognizes a family member as one of the following:
- legal guardian,
- father or mother,
- sister or brother,
- grandfather or grandmother,
- uncle or aunt,
- nephew or niece,
- common-law partner, or same-sex spouse.
Your family member must be living in Canada and have a recognized status in the country. Check the government’s website for a detailed list of the status your family member in Canada must have.
Before entering Canada:
- Let your family members in Canada know that you are coming.
- Your relatives do not have to be present at the border, but it can be useful if they are able to prove that they are your family members.
- If not present, they will be called and interviewed.
When you enter Canada:
- Show originals or copies of your identity documents, such as your passport, driver’s license, national identity card, birth certificate, or marriage certificate.
If you are in a common-law relationship and your partner is in Canada:
- You must bring proof that you have been living together with your partner for at least one year.
- Proof can include shared ownership of residential property, joint leases, rental agreements, or bills for shared utility accounts (gas, electricity, telephone).
Claiming asylum from inside Canada
If you are already in Canada and wish to claim asylum, you will have to create a portal account on the website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and then submit your asylum claim online.
Note that a legal representative can help you complete your claim or submit a claim for you.
Find out what to do if you can’t submit your claim online.