Intake of claims for refugee protection at ports of entry

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

At ports of entry, front-end processing should normally be completed for all claimants at the initial interview including an assessment as to whether the provisions of the Safe Third Country Agreement apply.

When it is not possible to complete the front-end processing at a port of entry, consider the following options:


A55(3)(a) provides that a permanent resident or a foreign national may, on entry into Canada, be detained if an officer considers it necessary to do so for the examination to be completed.

Persons being detained for examination must be informed of the reason for detention and of their right to counsel and their rights under the Vienna Convention.

Related procedures:

Entry to Complete Examination

An officer may authorize a person to enter Canada for the purpose of further examination (A23). The decision to grant an adjournment rests with the officer. A claimant may also request adjournment so that they may obtain additional information/documentation to support the eligibility of their claim.

A request for an adjournment may be granted only if the following conditions are met:

  • The officer is satisfied that the information is pertinent to the eligibility decision;
  • The officer would not otherwise be able to conclude that the refugee claim is eligible;
  • There are strong indications that the claimant can easily obtain additional evidence during the adjournment; and
  • The claimant has not yet had a reasonable chance to obtain such evidence.

When authorizing entry under A23, the officer must impose the conditions outlined at R43. They may also require the payment of a deposit or the posting of a guarantee [R45].

The “Entry for Further Examination or Admission Hearing” (BSF536) form should be completed and issued to the claimant.

Direct Back

In certain, highly exceptional circumstances at land ports of entry, an examination appointment may be scheduled and the refugee claimant directed back to the U.S.A.

Related procedures

First steps in taking a refugee claim

Step 1 – Determine the claimant’s language abilities and the need for an interpreter

Claimants have a right to communicate with Canadian government officials in either of Canada’s official languages.

If a claimant is unable to understand and communicate fully in English or French, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) or the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will provide an interpreter.

The final decision as to whether an interpreter is required rests with the officer.

If an interpreter is required but one is not available at the time of the refugee eligibility examination, the officer may adjourn the examination until an interpreter is available. For information on adjournment of an examination, refer to procedures on entry to complete examination.

Family members are not permitted to act as interpreters at a refugee eligibility examination.

When an interpreter is used, the officer, interpreter and claimant must sign an IMM 1265 (Interpreter Declaration), and the form must be attached to the file.

Related link:

Step 2 – Determine if claimant will be represented

Claimants may have a representative present at the eligibility interview. However, in most circumstances, an interview should not be delayed to allow for a representative to attend. Representatives may not speak on a claimant’s behalf or interfere with the interview proceedings.

There are two types of representatives: paid and unpaid. To be an authorized representative, the individual must be:

  • a lawyer who is a member in good standing of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society;
  • an immigration consultant who is a member in good standing of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC); or
  • a notary who is a member in good standing of the Chambre des notaires du Québec.

Unpaid representatives may include:

  • a NGO representative, community worker or religious organization;
  • family members; or
  • friends.

In the case of claimants who are minors or, in the opinion of an officer, unable to understand the proceedings (for reasons other than language), an unpaid representative may be invited to attend the interview.

If a representative is present during the interview, the IMM 5476 (Use of a Representative) must be completed, signed and attached to the file.

See full policies and procedures on the use of representatives.

Step 3 – Review CIC/CBSA systems

A query is done by the officer to determine if the person:

  • is an existing claimant;
  • has other immigration applications; or
  • is subject to enforcement action such as an outstanding warrant.

A copy of any hit list or claimant history screens should be put on file. The officer must ensure that new information such as addresses and aliases are entered in FOSS or GCMS.

Example: If the claimant has a genuine passport, the name entered in FOSS or GCMS must match the one on the passport. If the claimant is using a name that is different from what appears on the passport, indicate that name as an alias and attach any document with that name to the file.

For inland claims, the officer must check GCMS to verify whether the claimant applied for a temporary resident visa (TRV). If so, they must generate a GCMS information request for the application and provide it to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). A copy must also be provided to the claimant.

In GCMS, it is necessary to record the outcome of all criminality checks conducted as part of the refugee claimant intake process.

Step 4 – Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and National Crime Information Centre (NCIC) (CBSA only)

NCIC is accessed through CPIC. Any printouts should be classified “Protected B” and user identification should be blacked out for any CPIC or NCIC printouts that are retained. CPIC or NCIC printouts that are relevant to the case should be placed on the file.

The standard of proof in a determination of criminal inadmissibility is “reasonable grounds to believe.”

Step 5 – Liaise with visa office abroad (CBSA only)

If the claimant holds a TRV or if the claimant applied overseas for a visa, a request should be sent to the mission for copies of the application and case notes. Visa office notes can also be accessed through various systems by CICs.

In the case of a request to a visa office in the claimant’s country of nationality or of habitual residence, the information must be transmitted by Entrust encrypted e-mail or secure fax. The information exchanged must never reveal the claimant’s identity or the fact that they have made a refugee claim. This includes communications with the Hong Kong visa office regarding refugee claimants from the People’s Republic of China. The exchange of non-classified messages to and from the claimant’s country of origin could result in reprisals against the claimant or their family or associates.

In most cases, when a request is sent to a visa office outside the claimant’s country of nationality or of habitual residence, it may be sent by unclassified email or by fax. However, in some cases, due to a claimant’s particular circumstances, it may be warranted to classify documents in order to protect the claimant.

When TRV details are available

When a TRV is present in the claimant’s passport, messages to visa offices to request case notes should be formatted as follows: state number and date of visa issuance as well as the file number of the visa office which appears in black on the sixth printed line of the visa, on the right. It starts with a V (visitor), S (student) or W (worker).

When TRV details are not available

When details of the application abroad are not available, the port of entry (POE) should provide the name, date and place of birth, country of last permanent residence (CLPR) and date of refugee claim of the person. The message should request that the reply be sent by Entrust encrypted e-mail or secure fax and if applicable, provide the secure fax number of the POE. The visa office should respond with the details of any overseas application and, if applicable, send a copy of the application by fax to the office that requested the information.

Step 6 – Fingerprint and photograph the claimant

Authority to fingerprint and photograph claimants who are under examination is provided in A16. All claimants 14 years of age and older must provide digital fingerprints.

Inland offices that do not have the capacity to do digital fingerprints on site should send claimants to approved service providers for fingerprinting. If digital fingerprinting is not available, the ink and roll method may be used. However, processing of the search by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) may take longer.

All claimants must be photographed. Inland offices without camera equipment should request that the claimant provide four passport-sized photographs.

When fingerprint search results are received from the RCMP, the officer must update FOSS or GCMS by entering the Fingerprint Section (FPS) number.

Fingerprinting and photographing vulnerable claimants and minors

Vulnerable persons and minors may not be comfortable with the process of being fingerprinted and photographed. Religious and cultural sensitivities should be considered when taking photographs and accommodations made to the greatest extent possible.

Example: Women who cover their face or their head for religious or cultural reasons should be given the option of having their photograph taken by a female officer.

Explain the fingerprinting and photography procedures to children. Fingerprinting and photography of children should be done in the presence of their parents or legal guardians, when possible. A child who is not comfortable being photographed alone may be photographed with a parent or legal guardian.

Requests for fingerprint search under the Five Country Conference High Value Data Sharing Protocol

CIC and CBSA officers may submit a request to have a client’s fingerprints searched against the immigration fingerprint holdings of a Five Country Conference (FCC) partner country (Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States). Requests will be reviewed by the FCC Protocol Units at CIC-National Headquarters (NHQ) and CBSA-NHQ. NHQ will decide whether or not to make a formal request under the Protocol.

Learn more:

Step 7 – Conduct search and seize applicable documents (if required)

All passports and travel documents must be seized and a certified true copy of genuine passports and travel documents provided to the claimant. Other significant documents such as birth and baptismal certificates, and other identity documents, may also be seized and a certified true copy provided to the claimant. Documents, such as a driver’s license, may be seized if:

  • it was fraudulently or improperly obtained or used;
  • the seizure is necessary to prevent fraudulent or improper use; or
  • it is required to carry out the purposes of the IRPA as per A140.

The officer must make three copies of all documentation seized and provide a copy to the IRB. They must ensure that either the BSF 667 (Search/Arrest report) or the IMM 5265 (Notice of Seizure), or both, is completed and signed, and that a copy is given to the claimant.

CIC officers do not have ministerial delegation to conduct searches. If a CIC officer determines that a search is warranted, they may ask the CBSA to do it.

For more information on search and seizure, refer to ENF 12, Search, seizure, fingerprinting and photographing (PDF, 0.97MB).

Step 8 – Create a paper file and complete electronic files

To create the paper file and complete electronic files, the officer:

  • ensures the application is complete and signed by the claimant, including:
  • includes their notes, if applicable;
  • includes three certified true copies of the claimant’s identity documents;
  • includes four passport-sized photographs of the claimant;
  • includes a copy of the fingerprint record if completed through Livescan;
  • obtains the name and address of counsel, if applicable;
  • includes all relevant correspondence related to the applicant;
  • includes visa office file information, if applicable (CBSA: a copy of the e-mail to the visa office requesting their file. CIC: GCMS information request for the application, i.e., GCMS generated a TRV ATIP report);
  • inputs FOSS updates (CBSA only) by completing the Record of Refugee Claim (RR screen) if it has not already been created because of a previous input of a non-computer-based entry (NCB);
  • enters the application and front-end security screening (FESS) information into FOSS (CBSA only); and
  • inputs information in the Support System for Intelligence (SSI) within 48 hours for all transportation liability cases and within 30 days for all others.

Save and attach files to GCMS (CIC only)

When the interview is completed, all forms, officer notes, identity documents and other supporting paperwork should be scanned and saved into GCMS, and, when applicable, those documents should be saved in the shared electronic file folder as indicated in the following table.

Item Scanned onto computer? Saved and attached to GCMS? Scanned into GCMS by its 2D bar code (if applicable)? Saved in the shared electronic file folder?
IMM 0008 Yes Yes – Application Incoming Correspondence Yes Yes
Schedule A; Schedule 12 Yes Yes – Application Incoming Correspondence N/A Yes
Basis of Claim Form Yes Yes – Security Screening sub-activity N/A Yes
Identity and travel documents Yes Yes – Client Documents N/A Yes
Officer’s notes (if applicable) Yes TBD N/A Yes
Visa office file (if applicable) Yes GCMS document N/A Yes
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