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Refugees can lose permanent resident status by going back to their country

Refugee woman

On December 15, 2012, the Immigration Act changed. Now, permanent residents who started out as refugees or protected persons could lose their status if they get a passport from their country of origin and travel back to that country.

In this situation, they may get a notice that Citizenship and Immigration Canada is applying to “cease” their status because they “re-availed themselves of the protection of their country of origin.” When this happens, a hearing is held before the Refugee Protection Division.

Anyone who gets a notice that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is making either a “vacation” or “cessation” application to end their protected person status should apply for legal aid as soon as possible.

It’s very important to gather evidence to explain the reasons for travel and present legal arguments about the scope of the new law because a cease status decision can’t be appealed to the Immigration Appeal Division.

To find out more about applying for legal aid for immigration problems, call 1-888-601-6076 (no charge) or visit our website.

Hot off the press: Need Help with Your Refugee Claim?

needHelp WithYourRefugeeClaimThis bilingual infocard for refugee claimants is now available (online or print) in two versions: English/Spanish and English/French. The infocard encourages claimants to contact legal aid as soon as possible. It highlights legal aid coverage for refugees and the new LSS immigration phone service, as well as the intake hours at the Vancouver legal aid office.

New immigration publications and legal aid lawyer services

As we set out in our earlier ELAN entry, there have been some big changes recently to immigration law in Canada (Bill C-31). This includes a reworking of the refugee claim process.

As a consequence of these changes, our publication Your Guide to the Refugee Claim Process is no longer available, as it’s now outdated. To outline the new refugee claim process, we’ve produced a new flow chart (available online only). As well, we’ve created a new bilingual infocard to promote our new legal aid immigration phone line. The infocard text is in English and Spanish.

To find out more about the updated legal aid coverage and services for immigration matters, check out our immigration problems page.

New legislation changes Canada’s refugee claim process

Canada’s new refugee law system (Bill C-31) went into effect on December 15, 2012. The new refugee process radically reduces the time from applying for refugee status to the time of a hearing, and introduces a limited appeal process, among other process changes.

The Basis of Claim form (BOC) now replaces the Personal Information Form (PIF). The BOC requires a claimant to answer very specific questions about their refugee claim. There are three other new immigration forms as well.

People from the new “Designated Countries of Origin” (DCOs), who apply inland, will have just 30 days from being found eligible to make a claim to the time of a Refugee Protection Division (RPD) hearing. Those from DCOs who make a claim upon arrival at an airport or a land border (a “Port of Entry”) will have only 45 days. People from all other countries will have only 60 days.

Some claimants whose claims have been denied at the RPD hearing will have the right to apply for an appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD). They must prepare their appeals within 15 days and file their documents within 30 days. RAD appeals are not available to:

  • claimants from DCOs,
  • people whose claim started under the old system, and
  • people whose claims were found not credible or “manifestly unfounded.”

Many failed claimants will be removed from the country before having time to apply for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) or Humanitarian and Compassionate application (H&C). See our July 2012 ELAN entry regarding changes to the PRRA and H&C process. Note that failed claimants from DCOs now have a three-year waiting period before they can apply for a PRRA.

LSS encourages all refugee claimants to contact legal aid as early in the process as possible. A new legal aid immigration phone line has been created for intermediaries and clients to directly access specialized immigration intake staff. Call 604-601-6076 in Greater Vancouver; elsewhere in BC, call 1-888-601-6076 (no charge). Intermediaries can also email intake at immigration.intake@lss.bc.ca.

Refugee claims started before December 15, 2012, will continue to be determined under the existing system. For more information, see the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.

Changes to sponsorship regulations — Conditional Permanent Residence

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations have been amended: spouses or partners sponsored after October 25, 2012 who have been in a relationship for two years or less and have no children together will now be given conditional permanent residence status.

Conditional permanent residence is exactly like regular permanent residence but with two new conditions:

  1. The sponsored spouse must live with the sponsoring partner for two years after the day he or she receives conditional permanent residence. This must be a “legitimate” relationship; Citizenship and Immigration Canada can perform assessments and revoke the conditional permanent residence status. After the two years, if the relationship is ongoing, the person is granted regular permanent residency.
  2. Sponsored spouses cannot themselves sponsor a new partner — if say, they divorce their own sponsor — within five years of receiving permanent residency.

The “two year” rule won’t apply if:

  • the sponsor dies within the two year period; or
  • there is evidence of abuse or neglect from the sponsor or that the sponsor did not act to stop abuse or neglect by another person related to the sponsor.

If the relationship breaks down the sponsor remains financially responsible until the end of the three-year undertaking period regardless of the cause of the breakdown.

These changes only apply to sponsorship applications received after October 25, 2012.

For more information, see Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s website page on the changes.


Hot off the press: Update for Your Guide to the Refugee Claim Process

Your Guide to the Refugee Claim ProcessAn update for the LSS booklet, Your Guide to the Refugee Claim Process, is now available on the LSS website in English, simplified Chinese, French, and Spanish.

On June 28, 2012, the federal government made a number of changes to the refugee claim process, some of which are already in effect. Most of the information in the update relates to the chapter in the existing guide about preparing humanitarian and compassionate applications.

The update is available as both a stand-alone online PDF and as an insert within the online guides. Look for more LSS announcements later this year when the rest of the federal changes come into effect.

Hot off the press: Update insert for Your Guide to the Refugee Claim Process

We’ve published an update insert for the booklet, Your Guide to the Refugee Claim Process, to account for changes to the refugee claim process brought about by Bill C-31. The English update is now available on the LSS website as a stand-alone PDF and also within the online English version of the guide.

The update is also coming soon in simplified Chinese, French, and Spanish.

Changes to the refugee claim process

On June 28, 2012, Bill C-31, titled the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, received royal assent and is now law. The bill makes a number of changes to the Canadian immigration system. While most of the changes won’t come into effect until sometime in the future, a number of changes are already in effect. These changes limit when people can apply for pre-removal risk assessments (PRRAs) or humanitarian and compassionate (H&Cs) consideration. This means that some information in the LSS publication, Your Guide to the Refugee Claims Process, is no longer correct. There are three major changes that should be noted:

  1. After receiving a negative final decision on a refugee claim from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, there is now a one-year waiting period before claimants can apply for a PRRA.
  2. Previously, claimants could apply to stay in Canada on H&C grounds at any point during the refugee claim process. Now, applications can no longer be submitted while a refugee claim is pending. As well, failed refugee claimants are barred from filing an H&C application for one year, unless there is a risk to life due to inadequate health or medical care, or if removal would have an adverse effect on the best interests of a child.
  3. On an H&C application, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will no longer consider whether a person faces risk if returned to their country (this change occurred as of June 29, 2010).

The incorrect information in the current booklet concerns H&C applications and is primarily in the H&C chapter. A short update for Your Guide to the Refugee Claims Process about the H&C and PRRA changes will be available in the near future.

For more information on these changes, please see the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.

Hot off the press: Four translations of Sponsorship Breakdown

Sponsorship Breakdown

The most recent English version of this booklet is now available in Spanish, Punjabi, traditional Chinese, and, for the first time, simplified Chinese.

Sponsorship Breakdown is for permanent residents who need help when the person sponsoring them in Canada stops supporting them. It explains what will (and will not) happen, how to apply for social assistance (welfare), and it provides contact information for community groups around BC.

These new versions are all available in print and online.

Hot off the press from LSS: Your Guide to the Refugee Claim Process (Spanish)

Su Guía del Proceso de Petición de RefugioThe Spanish version of this publication is now back in print! This reprint includes some minor revisions such as updated website links and contact information for community organizations. Your Guide to the Refugee Claim Process explains the process of seeking refugee protection in Canada. It is available in print and online, and also in English, Chinese (simplified), and French (online only).