Can a Refugee in Canada Get Citizenship?

Migrants seeking asylum in Canada may remain in the country while officials evaluate their cases; the government will not deport them unless they violate laws or commit an offense.

Refugee claimants must pass strict security and criminal background checks before being considered for resettlement by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

After that comes waiting for an answer on their status.


Refugees are people who have fled from their country of origin in order to escape persecution, and are protected under Canada’s humanitarian and refugee laws.

Refugees play an integral part of Canadian life and contribute greatly to its social, economic, and cultural fabric.

Since 1980, Canada has welcomed over one million refugees who bring diverse backgrounds, skillsets, and perspectives to our society and culture.

Since their formal admission, most refugees arrive without sufficient financial resources; once settled they must learn a new language and adapt to our society – often by adapting quickly with little support or assistance – becoming valuable contributors in all three areas: society, economy and culture.

People making refugee claims must file them at a port of entry or an inland office of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), where they will be assessed based on their circumstances to see whether they qualify or not for further consideration of their case.

Those determined eligible are then either allowed to pursue their case further; those classified as Convention Refugees or Persons Needing Protection can then apply for permanent residency through this system.

Some refugees are sponsored by groups in their local community through the Private Sponsorship program, meeting all IRCC requirements to be successful and going through health and security screening to be approved.

Individuals sponsored by groups can legally work and are eligible for all provincial/federal settlement supports available to resettled refugees/permanent residents.

Government-sponsored refugees in Canada are processed through the Refugee Resettlement Program and can be referred by either UNHCR or designated sponsor organizations.

Individuals and families undergo pre-removal risk assessments before legally working within Canada’s borders.

They have access to settlement supports similar to that available to resettled refugees/permanent residents as well as eligibility for Canadian passports after becoming settled in.

Hassan Al Kontar made international headlines in 2018 after becoming stuck at a Malaysia airport for seven months without valid immigration papers allowing him to leave the country legally.

He documented his ordeal via social media, drawing attention to the complex asylum process asylum seekers must navigate when searching for safety from violence at home.

Designated Foreign Nationals

Designated Foreign Nationals (DFNs) are individuals who have applied for Canadian permanent residency but are still awaiting approval.

The designation is typically granted based on humanitarian reasons, particularly if the individual would face significant hardships upon returning to their home country.

The decision to designate someone as a DFN is made by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

While under DFN status, individuals are prohibited from sponsoring family members or pursuing other immigration paths.

DFNs do not immediately qualify for Canadian citizenship. However, they can apply for Canadian naturalization after a five-year waiting period.

During these five years, they are restricted from traveling outside Canada and accessing government benefits.

Additionally, they are required to regularly report to officials as part of their DFN status.

DFN process was intended to act as a deterrent against those seeking entry without first seeking asylum, yet after the Trump administration issued various immigration policies, more than fifty thousand asylum seekers came flooding in to Canada in 2017.

As a response, Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced changes aimed at strengthening border security while modifing asylum procedure so as to better handle this influx.

These provisions included a rule which allows a DFN to be designated when the Minister is satisfied on a reasonable basis that an irregular arrival has taken place; this would apply to refugee claimants entering Canada with documents obtained through smugglers;

however, this standard could prove difficult for most groups of refugee claimants as most cannot afford such services.

DFN rules also included provisions to eliminate sponsorship requirements for “assisted relatives,” as well as lower points awarded for this category, thus diminishing private organizations’ incentives to shoulder financial responsibility for sponsoring family members.

Furthermore, legislation was introduced by Citizenship and Immigration that made obtaining visas through this route more challenging through enhanced fingerprinting requirements and other regulations.

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Protected Persons

Protected persons (or refugees) may be recognized by Canada if it deems them to have a well-founded fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, membership of a specific social group or any other grounds specified in its Immigration Act.

They must reside outside their country of origin where danger or serious harm could ensue from returning and face immediate or serious threats back in their homeland.

Resettlement in Canada for those who qualify as protected persons requires them to be referred by either UNHCR or private sponsorship groups, meet government financial and security requirements, as well as undergo screening for medical, criminal and security concerns.

Permanent residents may apply for citizenship of Canada after being granted permanent resident status and their refugee claim has been processed through the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB),

an independent administrative tribunal which renders well-reasoned decisions on immigration and refugee matters quickly, fairly, and with due regard for law.

The IRB is composed of four divisions.

The Refugee Protection Division (RPD) reviews applications for refugee status in Canada, determining if an individual meets either the UN definition of Convention refugee, as amended by Canadian law, or whether they qualify as someone requiring protection.

A new program was implemented to address the backlog of refugee claims dating from the 1970s. Three classes were designated: Indochinese, Latin American Political Prisoners and Oppressed Persons and East European Self-Exiled Persons.

Sponsorship rose exponentially while many refugees were admitted via an interest-free Assisted Passage Loan Scheme.

Furthermore, an agreement was made with Poland’s government for admission of people involved with Solidarity movement.

Reports were produced regarding the IRB’s refugee determination system, such as the “Robinson Report” in 1984 and Ratushny and Plaut reports in 1985.

Furthermore, in 1989 Canada signed an international Safe Third Country Agreement with the US to manage refugee claimants entering Canada at legal border crossings; some refugee advocacy groups criticized this accord because it does not protect asylum seekers adequately.

Permanent Residents

Permanent residents of Canada have legal permission to remain here permanently and, if desired, become citizens in due time.

Their rights and responsibilities tend to mirror those of citizens; these are outlined by both Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), as well as related regulations like Immigration Appeal Division Rules.

Permanent residents are defined as any individual who has acquired permanent residency status in Canada without being inadmissible, per sections 151 through 186 of IRPA.

Section 18 also establishes the function and composition of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada while Immigration Appeal Division Rules provide rules for appealing decisions made by this body.

The Approved Church Program was implemented, giving religious organizations the ability to select immigrants.

Critics charged that this gave religious institutions too much discretion when selecting refugees, leading to 1958 when the Supreme Court found this was contrary to legislation requirements.

New programs were initiated, such as the Government Assisted Refugee Program and Private Sponsorship of Refugees.

This marked an attempt in the 1970s to shift away from purely economic immigration policy towards multiculturalism as an integral aspect of Canadian society.

IRPA was amended in several ways, with changes made to both its definition of protected persons and procedures for determining who requires protection.

Furthermore, responsibility for security matters was transferred from RCMP to newly formed CSIS.

Bill C-55 completely transformed the refugee determination process and established a two-stage assessment system with more rigorous screening for claimants.

Additionally, this law established the concept of “person in need of protection,” including people facing persecution on account of race, religion, nationality or political opinion both inside their own countries or at risk here in Canada; later expanded this definition.

Furthermore, Bill C-55 mandated oral hearings for anyone being deported and added more positions within Immigration Appeal Division.