Claim refugee status from inside Canada: Who can apply

Safe Third Country Agreement remains in effect

The STCA and the Additional Protocol continue to be in effect. People entering Canada from the US along the land border

  • are still not eligible to make a refugee claim
  • will be returned to the US unless they meet 1 of the relevant exemptions or exceptions under the STCA

Learn more about the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision.

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.

Who can make a refugee claim

To make a refugee claim, you

  • must be in Canada
  • can’t be subject to a removal order

If you’re outside Canada, you may be eligible to


If you make a refugee claim, we’ll decide if it can be referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The IRB is an independent tribunal that makes decisions on immigration and refugee matters.

Your refugee claim may not be eligible to be referred to the IRB if you

  • are recognized as a Convention refugee by another country that you can return to
  • were granted protected person status in Canada
  • arrived via the Canada–United States border
  • have made a refugee claim in another country, as confirmed through information-sharing
  • are not admissible to Canada on security grounds or because of criminal activity or human rights violations
  • made a previous refugee claim that was not found eligible
  • made a previous refugee claim that was rejected by the IRB
  • abandoned or withdrew a previous refugee claim

The IRB decides who is a Convention refugee or a person in need of protection.

Convention refugees are outside their home country or the country they normally live in. They’re not able to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on

  • race
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • nationality
  • being part of a social group, such as women or people of a particular sexual orientation

A person in need of protection is a person in Canada who can’t return to their home country safely. This is because, if they return, they may face

  • danger of torture
  • risk to their life
  • risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment

The IRB website has more information on making an asylum claim in Canada.

Safe Third Country Agreement

Canada has an agreement with the U.S. that says people who want to make a refugee claim must do so in the first safe country they arrive in.

This means, you’ll be returned to the U.S. if you

  • enter Canada from the U.S. at a land port of entry, or
  • cross between ports of entry along the land border, including waterways that run along and across it, and make a refugee claim less than 14 days after the day of entry

In some cases, this rule does not apply (for example, if you have family in Canada).

Information for Asylum Claimants

To find out more about the application process, see our pamphlet for asylum claimants, available in a number of languages.

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