Claim refugee status from inside Canada: How to apply

On this page

  1. Decide how to start your claim
  2. Go to a hearing

How to make a refugee claim

To apply for refugee status from inside Canada, you need to submit a complete application. Your application will help us understand

  • your background
  • your family
  • why you want to make a refugee claim

Before you start, choose the best way for you to make a refugee claim.

1. Decide how to start your claim

There are 2 ways to make a refugee claim:

  • You can send us an email and manage your claim online.
  • You can go to a port of entry and make your claim in person.

When you make your refugee claim, you can also apply to work or study while you wait for a decision.

Send us an email to start a refugee claim

If you’re in Canada, you can tell us you want to start a claim by sending us an email. After we get your message, we invite you to a secure online account to continue your claim and communicate with you about your application.

We use Canada Post’s epost Connect™ service to make sure your application stays secure and your privacy is protected throughout the application process.

Steps to start your refugee claim
  1. Prepare an email with this information only:
    • Subject line: Request to make a Refugee Claim in Canada: (unique client identifier or Passport number)
    • The body of the email should only include
      • your name
      • the email you want to use to communicate
      • your unique client identifier (UCI) found on your visa or permit, or your passport number
        • If you don’t have either number, explain why in your email.

Don’t add any other information to your email.

  1. Send your email to
    • We only respond to emails about starting a refugee claim.
  2. You’ll get an automatic reply to confirm we got your message.
  3. You’ll get an email from Canada Post asking you to sign up for an account.
    • Check your spam folder to make sure you don’t miss it.
    • Add this email domain to your safe sender list:
  4. Follow the instructions to set up your account.

After you set up your Canada Post epost Connect account, we’ll use it to communicate with you about your application. You can also submit your application and supporting documents using your account.

Once your account is set up, you’ll get an email from Canada Post whenever we add a message for you.

Steps to apply for refugee status
  1. Complete all forms in the application package.
  2. Upload the forms to your Canada Post epost Connect account.
  3. One of our immigration officers will make sure your application is complete. If it is, we
    • give you an Acknowledgement of Claim letter
    • give you instructions to complete your immigration medical examination
    • schedule you for an interview
  4. If your application is incomplete, we let you know what’s missing.

During your interview, we review your application and decide if you’re eligible to claim refugee status. After the interview, we give you a refugee protection claimant document that fits our decision. If you’re eligible, we also give you a Confirmation of Referral letter that confirms we referred your claim to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) of Canada.

Start your refugee claim at a port of entry

You can apply for refugee status at any port of entry when you arrive in Canada. This means an airport, seaport or land border.

We give you the application package when you arrive if you don’t already have it.

If the officer decides your refugee claim is eligible, they give you

  • a Confirmation of Referral letter
    • This letter confirms that we referred your claim to the IRB.
  • a Basis of Claim form
    • You have 15 days to complete this form and submit it to the Refugee Protection Division office shown on your Confirmation of Referral letter.

Work or study while waiting for a decision on your refugee claim

If you want to work or study while waiting for your refugee claim decision, let us know by using the “Schedule 12 – Additional information” form available in your application package. You don’t need to submit a separate application or pay extra fees.

If you’re eligible and we approve your permit, we mail it to you after you pass your medical exam.

To avoid delays receiving your permit, make sure we always have your current address. You can change your address online.

Who can get a work permit

You and your family members may be eligible for open work permits if you’re making a refugee claim and

  • you need a job to pay for food, clothing and shelter
  • the family members you want permits for
    • are with you in Canada
    • plan to work
    • are also applying for refugee status
Who can get a study permit

You and your family members may be eligible for study permits if

If you have an acceptance letter, you can apply at the same time you apply for refugee status by including it with your application.

Minor children don’t need a study permit to go to kindergarten, elementary or secondary school.

If you’re not eligible to make a refugee claim

If we find that you’re not eligible to make a refugee claim, you’ll be issued a removal order.

2. Go to a hearing

If you’re eligible to make a refugee claim, the IRB will send you a Notice to Appear for a hearing. This notice will tell you:

  • where to go for your hearing
  • when to get there
  • when it starts

Find out how to prepare for your hearing in the IRB’s Claimant’s Guide.

After your hearing, the IRB will approve or refuse your refugee claim. Find out what to do after you get a decision.

The IRB will never call you to ask for money. Read more information about fraudulent calls demanding money.

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