Convention refugee abroad class: eligibility criteria

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Sections R139, R144 and R145 lay out the eligibility criteria for the Convention refugee abroad class. To be eligible, an applicant:

  • must meet the Convention refugee definition (A96);
  • must be outside Canada; and
  • must have no reasonable prospect, within a reasonable period, of another durable solution, namely :
    • voluntary repatriation or resettlement in their country of nationality or habitual residence;
    • resettlement in their country of asylum; or
    • resettlement to a third country.

Note: Applicants under this class must either be referred by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), by another referral organization or by a private sponsor.

How to determine eligibility for the Convention refugee abroad class

The officer should follow the steps outlined to determine if the applicant meets the eligibility criteria for this class.

Step 1

The applicant must satisfy each eligibility criteria of this class to be eligible for their application to be processed under it.

Note: Refer to the definition of “Convention refugee” and the above-mentioned eligibility requirements.

The definition of “Convention refugee” is forward-looking. It follows, therefore, that the fear of persecution is to be assessed at the time of the examination of the refugee application.

Step 2

The officer must decide if the applicant has a “well-founded fear of persecution” after assessing the reasons provided by the applicant. A decision is made on whether an applicant:

  • was persecuted; or
  • has a well-founded fear of persecution.

The applicant must establish that the fear is reasonable. In other words, they must establish that their fear of persecution has a valid basis. Refugees may have more than one ground of persecution and it is the duty of the officer, not the applicant, to identify the reasons for the persecution.

Note: Actual persecution need not have taken place. The officer must determine that there is a serious possibility or reasonable chance that the applicant has a well-founded fear of persecution.

This information of persecution may or may not be documented. The officer will need to take into account:

  • the applicant’s credibility;
  • their own knowledge of country conditions in the applicant’s country of origin and country of asylum, and available resource material;
  • a decision by the UNHCR or a signatory country with regard to the applicant’s refugee status, if applicable;

Note: Although officers are not obliged to follow the designation of an applicant as a refugee by either UNHCR or the host country, officers must give regard to this designation. If the officer, after review, still decides that the applicant is not eligible, the officer should explain in case notes why they do not concur with the decision of UNHCR or the host country.

  • the reason the applicant is outside their country of nationality or former habitual residence; and
  • whether the applicant’s departure from their home country poses a risk and if departure in and of itself may be illegal.

“Unable” or “unwilling”:

“Unable” refers to persons who cannot avail themselves to protection from their own governments. “Unwilling” refers to persons who refuse the protection of the country of their nationality. If the country of origin is unwilling or unable to provide protection from persecution (whether the inability is despite the best efforts of a weak state or on account of a total failure of the state), then the victim will fear persecution in case of return and, therefore, has good reason to be unwilling to avail themself of the protection of that country.

Step 3

Review other sources, namely:

Step 4

Assess the ability to establish.

If the principal applicant does not qualify as a member of the Convention refugee abroad class, the officer must assess the eligibility and admissibility of the spouse or common-law partner and of any family members. Where any one family member qualifies, that status applies to all other family members. If the applicant and family members are not eligible under the Convention refugee abroad class, the officer must still assess all of them under the country of asylum class. It is important to note, however, that applicants under the country of asylum class must be self-sufficient or have a private sponsor in order to be eligible for resettlement to Canada under R139(1)(f). If no one in the family qualifies for either class, the officer must refuse the application.

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