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.

When a claim is made at a port of entry, refugee intake procedures should be completed, including an assessment of whether the provisions of the Safe Third Country Agreement apply.

This page details the procedures for taking a refugee claim.

On this page

Step 1 – Review IRCC and CBSA systems

A Global Case Management System (GCMS) integrated name search must be performed using the

  • name
  • gender
  • date of birth

If the claimant already exists in GCMS or the Field Operations Support System (FOSS), this allows staff to identify any known immigration history, including derogatory information on the claimant.

If the claimant is only found in FOSS, the officer promotes the person’s information from the FOSS database into GCMS, as per current instructions from GCMS Online Help.

If the claimant is not found in GCMS or FOSS, staff must create them as a new client.

Once the claimant’s profile is in GCMS, a refugee claim application must be created. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) staff will enter biographical information, including aliases, into GCMS.


  • The authorized representative must be added as a party to the application upon creation.
  • It is very important for families to be grouped together in GCMS, as this is what alerts the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) to schedule the claimants together.
  • The examination case and refugee claim application must be created in GCMS before biometrics are collected to ensure they are associated with the claim.

Step 2 – Biometric collection: Fingerprint and photograph the claimant

As per section 12.2 of the Immigration Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), all refugee claimants aged 14 years or older should have their biometrics collected.

Biometrics and information sharing allow the Government of Canada to confirm a claimant’s identity and identify whether a claimant has an adverse Canadian or United States (U.S.) record. This helps maintain program integrity by ensuring that ineligible claimants do not access the Canadian asylum system. Information sharing also prevents claimants from accessing multiple asylum systems. It can assist in verifying the credibility of a claim.

Manual biographic information sharing can occur for minors under 14 years of age only if their accompanying parents’ biometric information sharing reveals an ineligibility and the officer has a reasonable suspicion that sharing the child’s biographic information would reveal a similar ineligibility. This ineligibility can be confirmed by requesting copies of the parents’ asylum application from the partner country.

Once biometrics are collected, if a response of “poor quality” is returned, staff should attempt to take the fingerprints again. However, staff can alternatively choose to accept the poor quality fingerprint by selecting the appropriate reason for the poor quality fingerprints being accepted. Staff can include additional notes and should define and record reasons for the acceptance, where appropriate. If the person has previously been able to provide biometrics (to obtain a temporary resident visa), in most cases, a second attempt should be made.

Learn more

Fingerprinting and photographing vulnerable claimants and minors

All claimants must be photographed.

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.

Learn more

Step 3 – 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, the CBSA will provide an interpreter.

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 general information on adjournment of an examination, refer to CBSA shift briefing bulletin 2021-HQ-AC-07-16 and ENF 4: Port of Entry Examinations (PDF, 1.22 MB).

Only accredited interpreters are permitted to act as interpreters at a refugee eligibility examination. Unaccredited interpreters (for example, family members) cannot be used because an eligibility or admissibility decision will have a significant impact on a claimant.

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 links

Step 4 – Determine if the claimant will be represented

In general, CBSA’s policy is to not permit counsel at a port of entry examination unless arrest or detention has occurred. However, if an officer is dealing with an individual who does have counsel present, the officer should allow the counsel to remain present as long as counsel does not interfere with the examination process. In arrest or detention cases, officers must inform persons of their right to counsel prior to commencing the interview. For CBSA policy, refer to ENF 4, Section 8 (PDF, 1.22 MB).

There are 2 types of representatives: paid and unpaid. See the full policies and procedures on the use of representatives.

Paid representatives may include

  • 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)
  • a notary who is a member in good standing of the Chambre des notaires du Québec

Unpaid representatives may include a

  • non-governmental organization representative
  • community worker
  • representative of a religious organization
  • family member
  • friend

In the case of an unaccompanied minor or someone who, in the opinion of an officer, is unable to understand the proceedings (for reasons other than language), an unpaid or authorized representative may attend the examination. See the full policy on processing refugee claims for minors and vulnerable persons.

If a representative is present during the interview, the IMM 5476 – Use of a Representative form must be completed, signed and attached to the file. The representative must be associated as a party with the application in GCMS.

Step 5 – Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and National Crime Information Centre (NCIC) (CBSA only)

Biometric enrollment must be completed on all refugee applicants who are 14 years of age and older. The results of the biometric query or queries must be reviewed prior to making eligibility and admissibility determinations. Users may need to complete an indices check in CPIC/NCIC if GCMS produces a positive match.

NCIC queries are limited to the administration of criminal justice. CBSA officers must ensure that an NCIC query is authorized before accessing the information. Additional details can be found in CBSA's OBO 2020-080. Any printouts should be classified “Protected B” and user identification should be blacked out for any CPIC or NCIC printouts that are retained. It is necessary to record the outcome of all criminality checks conducted as part of the refugee claimant intake process in GCMS.

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

Step 6 – Liaise with visa office abroad (CBSA only)

If the claimant travelled to Canada with a temporary resident visa (TRV) or if the claimant applied overseas for a visa, a request may be sent to the mission for copies of the application and case notes if they’re not available in GCMS. Systems should be reviewed first for the availability of this information.

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 email. 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. 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 not available in GCMS

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 details of the application abroad are not available, the CBSA should provide the name, date and place of birth, country of last permanent residence (CLPR) and date of the refugee claim of the person. The message should request that the reply be sent by Entrust encrypted email. The visa office should respond with the details of any overseas application and, if applicable, send a copy of the application to the office that requested the information.

Step 7 – Conduct Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) searches and seizures of applicable documents (if required)

Detailed instructions and requirements are found in ENF 12: Search, seizure, fingerprinting and photographing (PDF, 617 KB). Officers must clearly articulate and document a reason for a search and complete the applicable forms. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter) protects the basic rights of all persons in Canada, including foreign nationals. Sections 8 through 10 of the Charter govern an officer’s authority to conduct searches and seizures.

Subsection 139(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) provides the authority to conduct a search of

  • a person
  • their luggage
  • their personal effects
  • the means of transportation that conveyed the person to Canada at a port of entry (POE)

Subsection A139(1) requires that an officer believe on reasonable grounds that the person seeking to come into Canada has

  • not revealed their identity
  • hidden documents that are relevant to their admissibility on or about their person
  • concealed documents that may be or have been used for the purpose of smuggling or trafficking of persons into Canada or for other contraventions under the IRPA and IRPR

The officer must ensure that the BSF 667 – Search/arrest report is completed and signed, and that a copy is given to the claimant.

Section A140 provides the legislative authority to seize any means of transportation, documents or other item if an officer believes on reasonable grounds that

  • it was fraudulently or improperly obtained or used
  • the seizure is necessary to prevent its fraudulent or improper use
  • the seizure is necessary to carry out the purposes of the IRPA

Although in each case, an officer must determine that the seizure meets one of the requirements under section A140, generally speaking, IRCC and CBSA officers will seize all refugee claimants’

  • passports
  • pertinent identification
  • travel documents

Certified true copies of genuine documents will be provided to these individuals, as they can be used when seeking to access federal and provincial programs.

Seizure of documents will

  • expedite the identification of the person
  • assist in background checks
  • assist in identifying immediate family members
  • assist in verifying information provided in their Basis of Claim form (PDF, 541 KB)
  • ensure compliance
  • ensure that documents are not recycled
  • assist in removal should the refugee claim be unsuccessful

In all cases, officers must complete a seizure form BSF 698. Officers must provide a copy to the claimant.

The seized documents must be scanned in colour and uploaded to GCMS as per the instructions in the CBSA Operational bulletin: OBO-2021-022 – Scanning and uploading refugee intake documents into GCMS.

Step 8 – Examination

The purpose of the examination is twofold:

  1. To gather any needed information about the claim and claimant; the interview is not adversarial and should be for the purpose of information gathering
  2. To conduct the Minister’s delegate review related to the section A44 report prepared with respect to the claimant

Examination options

At ports of entry, front-end processing should normally be completed for all claimants at the initial interview. A border services officer at immigration secondary has the following options available when an examination cannot be completed.

Direct back

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

Related procedures

Arrest and detention

Section A55 provides for the arrest and detention of individuals in prescribed circumstances. Not all inadmissible individuals are arrested or detained, nor should arrest or detention be used out of administrative convenience.

For specific instructions on what must be considered when determining whether to exercise authorities under section A55, refer to ENF 7: Immigration investigations and section A55 – Arrests/Detentions and ENF 20: Detention (PDF, 845 KB).

See step 9 for entry for further examination.

Step 9 – Process for claims that have been authorized entry for further examination (if applicable)

A claimant may be permitted entry for further examination as per existing policy instructions when either

  • full processing cannot be completed, or
  • volumes of claims for refugee protection meet processing thresholds established in regional CBSA contingency plans

Detailed instructions are available in shift briefing bulletin 2021-HQ-AC-07-16 – General guidance on the use of section 23 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to authorize entry for further examination or an admissibility hearing.

Initial Refugee Claimant Assessment (IRCA) model

CBSA has developed the Initial Refugee Claimant Assessment (IRCA) model to ensure national consistency in the examination of all refugee claimants by creating

  • a list of required screening questions on the IRCA form BSF 850
  • procedural steps that must be taken to assess risk factors related to the determination of the person’s eligibility and admissibility

If the claimant has been authorized entry for further examination, the claimant will be scheduled for a time to return to the POE or to appear at a CBSA inland office or processing centre at a later date based on the specifics of the case.

The client should be provided with the Information pamphlet for refugee claimants (PDF, 74.7 KB).

See OBO-2021-043 for complete IRCA instructions.

Persons who are seeking refugee protection and whose claim is found to be ineligible under the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA)

If, after the Intake of a claims for refugee protection has been received at a ports of entry and completing the BSF850 Initial Refugee Claimant Assessment (PDF) form (BSF 850) (PDF) (available internally only) has been completed, it is determined that the claim is ineligible pursuant to paragraph 101(1)(e) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), and the person is being removed immediately, Border Services Officers are not required to complete security screening or the following forms:

  • IMM0008 Generic Application Form for Canada (IMM 0008)
  • Additional Dependants/Declaration Form (IMM 0008DEP) (if applicable)
  • IMM0008 Schedule 12 – Additional Information – Refugee Claimants Inside Canada (IMM 0008 – Schedule 12)
  • IMM5669 Schedule A – Background/Declaration (IMM 5669)

See Operational bulletin OBO-2023-014 for complete instructions for processing refugee claims that are found to be ineligible under the STCA.

CBSA Functionality in the IRCC Portal

Effective April 4, 2023, persons who already made a claim to the CBSA and were either permitted entry for further examination by an officer, or instructed by the CBSA to complete their claim online, will complete their claim via the IRCC Portal using the CBSA functionality. The IRCC Portal allows the claimant, or their legal representative who is making a claim on their behalf, to submit the required claim information and upload copies of any additional supporting documentation related to their claim in a secure online environment. The claimant will be instructed to complete their claim using the IRCC Portal, and will complete their examination in Canada at a later date (if applicable). A representative may assist or complete the claim on behalf of the claimant. See more details on this process.

Step 10 – Eligibility decisions


Refugee claimants are generally considered to be inadmissible for non-compliance [subsection A41(a) and paragraph A20(1)(a)]. For more information, see the admissibility instructions.

After the section A44 report is prepared, the claim is referred for a Minister’s delegate review. The Minister’s delegate will determine if the report is well founded and issue the appropriate removal order or refer to the Immigration Division.

Immigration conditions may be imposed on the claimant.


A refugee claim must be made to an officer [A99(3)], and the burden of proving eligibility rests on the claimant [A100(1.1)]. If eligible, the claim must be referred to the Refugee Protection Division (RPD).

It is expected that most eligibility decisions will be made during the Minister’s delegate review.

If an officer suspects that a claimant is not eligible, the claimant should be questioned about the facts supporting this suspicion. If the claimant maintains that they are eligible and there are no contradicting facts, the claim should be found eligible and referred to the RPD. However, detailed notes should be entered about the officer’s concerns and flagged in the system.

A final eligibility decision is then made by the Minister’s delegate. The application status and application status reason in GCMS should reflect the officer’s decision, which triggers the referral to the RPD for eligible claimants and creates the relevant documents:

  • refugee protection claimant document (RPCD)
  • confirmation of referral

For more information related to making your eligibility decision, refer to In-Canada claims for refugee protection: Interviews.

Step 11 – Compilation of documents

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

  • ensures the application is complete and signed by the claimant, including the following forms:
  • includes their notes, if applicable
  • includes 3 certified true copies of the claimant’s identity documents
  • includes 4 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 email to the visa office requesting their file. IRCC: GCMS information request for the application, that is, GCMS generated a TRV ATIP report)
  • inputs information in GCMS within 48 hours for all transportation liability cases and within 30 days for all others
  • provides the claimant with the Information pamphlet for refugee claimants

Note: If the claimant used IRCC Portal, the officer will replace the signed and completed application as well as the forms (IMM 0008, IMM 0008DEP, Schedule A, and Schedule 12) with the Client Application Summary PDF . The claimant may also upload the Basis of Claim Form (PDF, 541 KB) to IRCC Portal.

Offices will transmit the following items or copies thereof to the applicable RPD office via the NOVA-GCMS Interface (NGI):

  • Client Application Summary (PDF) (for IRCC Portal claims)
  • Use of a Representative form [IMM 5476] (PDF, 1.8 MB) (if applicable)
  • Confirmation of Referral
  • visa application file (ATIP report) (IRCC only)
  • Notice of Seizure of Travel and/or Identity Document(s) (BSF 698)
  • copies of seized documents (genuine and fraudulent)
  • client photographs (uploaded into the IRCC Portal or stapled to the back of the principal applicant’s IMM 0008 if the claimant is not using the IRCC Portal )
  • statutory declaration (if completed)
  • completed, signed, and dated Checklist – Documents Provided to Refugee Claimant(s) [IMM 5780]
  • interview notes
  • any other documents submitted

Save and attach files to GCMS (CBSA and IRCC)

When the examination 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; military table; police service form (if applicable) Yes Yes – Application Incoming Correspondence N/A Yes
Client Application Summary or Record of submission PDF N/A Yes – Application Incoming Correspondence N/A Yes
Basis of Claim Form (only applicable if claimant is using IRCC Portal) Yes Yes – Application Incoming Correspondence N/A Yes
Use of a Representative [IMM 5476] (if applicable) Yes Yes – Application Incoming Correspondence N/A Yes
Identity and travel documents Yes Yes – Client Documents N/A Yes
Officer’s notes (if applicable) Yes Yes N/A Yes
Visa office file (if applicable) Yes GCMS document N/A Yes

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