Claiming Refugee Protection at Canada-United States Land Border

Changes to the Safe Third Country Agreement

On March 24, 2023, Canada and the United States announced the expansion of the STCA across the entire land border, including internal waterways. The expansion takes effect as of 12:01 a.m. EDT on March 25, 2023. If you crossed the border to make an asylum (refugee) claim and don’t meet one of the Agreement’s exceptions, you’ll be returned to the U.S.

Your first contact, in making a refugee claim, is with an officer who will interview you and your family. The officer will ask you questions and write down your answers. In addition, you will be given forms containing questions which you will have to answer and return to the officer.

The officer who carries out the interview will not be the one who decides whether your refugee claim will be accepted. The officer only determines whether you are allowed to make a claim in Canada. Deciding whether to accept your claim is the responsibility of an independent organization called the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

If you do not speak English or French, an interpreter will assist you by telephone or in person.

There is no requirement to have someone with you at the interview. However, if you wish, you may have someone accompany you to your interview. This person cannot speak on your behalf or interfere with the proceedings at the interview. This person may be a friend, a lawyer or a community worker, and should be available to accompany you at the time of the interview. The interview will not be delayed to allow the person to attend.

Every person making a refugee claim must be photographed and those 14 years of age or older must be fingerprinted. In addition, you, your luggage and your vehicle may also be searched.

At the end of the interview, you will be given a number of documents. The officer will explain each document and its purpose. One of these documents is called a “Removal Order.” If you are allowed to make a claim in Canada, the removal order that is issued by the officer will be conditional on the result of your refugee claim at the IRB. This means that, if your claim is refused, you will be required to leave Canada.

If the officer determines that you could have made your claim in the United States (U.S.), the officer will issue a removal order that is effective immediately and you will be required to go back to the U.S. right away.

You may be required to respect certain conditions imposed by the officer if you are allowed to come to Canada. For example, you must report to a local office whenever you are asked to do so. Also, you are required to inform the nearest local IRCC office of any change of address. If your claim is referred to the IRB, you will be provided with a form that you must complete and send to the IRB within 28 days. The officer will provide the address. You are required to complete a medical examination soon after your interview with the officer.

Listen carefully at the interview and ask questions if you do not understand what is explained to you.

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