Protection from being returned to your country of origin (non-refoulement)
You cannot be deported or sent back to a country in which your life or freedom may be in danger on account of your race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. This is the fundamental right of all refugees and asylum-seekers. In Canada, while you are waiting for a decision on your asylum claim, you cannot be deported to your country of origin. Even if you enter the country without a visa or entry permit, you cannot be deported until your refugee application has been considered.
Canada also has decided not to deport people to certain countries that it believes are not safe. Even if your asylum claim is rejected and you are a citizen of one of these countries, you will not be deported. The list of countries is regularly updated and can be found here.
Please note however that if you are coming from the United States and wish to claim asylum at the Canadian border, 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. Please check our Claiming asylum at the land border section for more details.
In general, people who enter Canada without an entry visa or without passing through an official border point can face a penalty. This penalty does not apply to people who make an asylum claim.
Please note however that 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. Please check our Claiming asylum at the land border section for more details.
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 the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Canada’s law enforcement agency responsible for border control. CBSA will take your photo and fingerprints, verify your identity, do a security screening and ask you some questions to determine whether you qualify under an exception to the Safe Third Country Agreement 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. Please check our Claiming asylum at the land border section for more details.
Protection and asylum
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, any person whose life is in danger in their own country has the right to seek protection and asylum in another country. Canada is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and respects the individual right to claim asylum. The government has set up a system so individuals can have their asylum applications assessed and determined.
The Canadian Government is responsible for giving you an identification document to authorize your stay in the country. Everyone must be documented, regardless of age, gender or sex. Those seeking asylum will receive a document that identifies their status as an asylum-seeker in Canada that includes their picture and a unique ID number.
We all have the right to live in an environment free from discrimination, regardless of ethnicity, colour of someone’s skin, sex, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, disability, religion, political opinion, nationality, socio-economic position, birthplace or any other personal attributes.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees individuals in Canada:
• freedom of religion, of thought, of expression, of the press and of peaceful assembly;
• the right to participate in political activities and the right to a democratic government;
• the freedom to move around and live within Canada, and to leave Canada;
• legal rights such as the right to life, liberty and security;
• equality rights; and,
• language rights.
If you feel one of your rights has been violated, you may get help by filing a complaint in court or through a human rights commission. For more information, please visit the website of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Access to banking services
Refugees and asylum-seekers have the same rights to public and private banking services as any Canadian. In other words, you can open a bank account, transfer funds and access all other banking services.
As an asylum-seeker, you have the right to access healthcare through the Interim Federal Health Program. You will automatically receive this coverage and proof of enrolment in the program as soon as you have been found eligible to make an asylum claim in Canada. For more information, please visit the following website.
All asylum-seekers have the right to work in Canada. You can apply for a work permit by checking the box for this purpose in your asylum application form. Once you have been found eligible to make an asylum claim and you have completed your medical examination, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will automatically process and issue you a work permit. To avoid delays, make sure IRCC always has your current address.
You can change your address online. If you have not checked the box during your initial asylum application or need to renew your work permit, you can apply online.
For more information on how to obtain or extend a work permit, please visit the following website.
If you have children under the age of 18, they do not need a student permit. They will automatically be eligible to attend school when you arrive in Canada. Access to school is free for children. If you are 18 years old or older and wish to study, you can apply for a study permit to attend school while you are waiting for a decision on your claim. For more information on the application to study in Canada please visit the following website.
Freedom of movement
You have the right to move freely throughout Canada and choose where you want to live. Note that you might be required to report to the governmental institutions periodically, which sometimes has to be done before you are allowed to move. If these reporting obligations apply to you, make sure you review them carefully and notify the proper authorities of any change of address and phone number. This is to make sure they can contact you if there are any changes or information they need while processing your asylum claim. Please speak to your lawyer before you move to a different province if you have not had your refugee hearing at the Immigration Refugee Board.
Please also note that an asylum-seeker cannot (temporarily) leave Canada during the processing of their asylum application.
Access to justice
All refugees and asylum-seekers have the right to get legal advice and be heard, free of discrimination. If you have limited financial means and wish to obtain the free services of a lawyer, contact the Legal Aid office in your province.
Social assistance benefits
Asylum-seekers may be eligible to receive social assistance benefits depending on provincial regulations. For more information, please visit the following website.