Pathway for Refugee Claimants

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Please note that this resource was developed in 2012 and may be out of date.

Receives CIC Refugee InfoMake Refugee ClaimFound EligibleFound IneligibleRefused EntryFind Temporary HousingContact Social ServicesHotelRefugee ShelterClaim referred to IRBContact Legal AidFind a lawyerIncome SupportsPre-employment programsVolunteeringEstablish Bank Account28 Days to submitFinancial LiteracyMedical ExaminationESL/Language classesRegister children in schoolImmunizationsOrientationRefugee Claimants' RightsToronto Public LibraryRights and ResponsibilitiesInfo on Daily LifeHealth Care SystemInterim Federal Health ProgramDental CareMental Health CareFamily DoctorCommunity Recreation CentresApply for Work PermitApply for SIN cardEmploymentContinuing EducationApply for study permitJob Search SupportCredential AssessmentCanada's Labour MarketGetting Canadian Work ExperienceDevelop Community ConnectionsPermanent HousingApprenticeshipDriver's LicenceWorkers' Rights EIClaim AcceptedApply for PRApply for OHIPClaim rejectedHumanitarian and Compassionate ApplicationJudicial ReviewRejectedAccepted (Judicial review)DeportationAccepted (Humanitarian)Eligible for programsRefugee claimant pathways- REVISED2.png
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Table of content


Make Refugee Claim

To get refugee protection in Canada, you must go through the refugee claim process. In this process, the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) decides whether you are a protected person.

To claim a refugee protection, you must be someone who, if you had to return to your home country, would, more likely than not, face:

  • torture,
  • a risk to your life, or
  • a risk of cruel and unusual treatment an punishment.

It is up to you to convince the IRB that you are a person in need of protection. You do this by telling your story to the IRB and providing any documents that support your case.

If you are at an airport or border, you can start your claim by telling CBSA (Canada Border Security Agency) officer that you want to make a refugee claim.

If you are already in Canada, you can contact CIC to start your claim.

Source: CLEO Immigration and Refugee Fact Sheets

Found Eligible

Once you have started your claim, you will have an interview to determine if you are eligible for a hearing at the IRB. After your interview a decision must be made within three working days. If a decision is not made within those three days, you claim is automatically referred to the IRB for a hearing.

Source: CLEO Immigration and Refugee Fact Sheets

Receives CIC Refugee Info

Refugee claimants must provide the original and two (2) copies of the PIF to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada no later than 28 days after they receive it from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). If the completed PIF is not received within 28 days, the RB may decide that the claim has been abandoned.

Before completing your Personal Information Form (PIF), we strongly suggest that you read the Claimant’s Guide that was given to you at the same time as the PIF. The Guide is available at:

Found Ineligible

Listed below are the reasons why you might not be eligible to have your refugee claim heard.

  1. The "safe third country" rule applies to you. (You are making your claim at a border crossing along the land border with the United States. There are exceptions to the rule though).
  2. You were found to be a Convention refugee in another country and you can return to that country.
  3. You have already made a refugee claim in Canada and it was rejected by the IRB, you withdrew or abandoned it, or you were not eligible to have your claim heard.
  4. You have a serious criminal record or you are considered to be a security risk because you were involved in terrorism, organized crime, espionage, or human rights violations.

Source: CLEO Immigration and Refugee Fact Sheets

Refused Entry

Removal Order

If you are found not eligible to have your claim heard, most probably there will be a removal order against you. You can ask the Federal Court to review the ineligibility decision. However, you must act quickly as there is a deadline of 15 days for applying to the Federal Court. Even if the Federal Court agrees to review the decision, if there is a removal order against you, you can still be removed from Canada before the Court decides your case.

Source: CLEO Immigration and Refugee Fact Sheets

Find Temporary Housing

Contact Social Services


Refugee Shelter

  • Central Family Intake: 416-397-5637
  • Red Cross First Contact: 1-866-902-4993

Claim referred to IRB

Contact Legal Aid

Legal Aid Ontario may pay a lawyer to help refugee claimants complete the Personal Information Form (PIF) and attend the Immigration and Refugee Board Hearing with them. It also pays for interpretation and translation.

Find a lawyer

Income Supports

Ontario Works program provides financial assistance to residents without income. Financial assistance includes money for food, shelter, clothing and other household costs for people who meet the financial and program criteria. You can apply for Ontario Works online any time:

or by telephone:

Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)

The Ontario Disability Support Program helps people with disabilities who are in financial need pay for living expenses, like food and housing. You can visit, call or write to your local Ontario Disability Support Program office for information about the program.

  • Toronto East Office:
    Ministry of Community and Social Services
    Ontario Disability Support Program
    Income Support
    770 Birchmount Rd. Unit #30
    Scarborough, ON M1K 5H3

For OW and ODSP rates:

Pre-employment programs

If you are receiving Ontario Works, a caseworker can refer you to a Pre-Employment Development program that is available through Employment and Social Services. These programs can help you figure out your employment goal and make a plan to reach that goal.

The programs take place at various agencies and run from 2 to 12 weeks. Depending on the program, you can expect to receive services such as:

  • tests to explore your strengths and interests
  • help in looking into career choices and in doing labour market research
  • workshops and classroom instruction to help you with your job search
  • a chance to gain work experience through an unpaid work placement
  • help with developing your employment plan that will outline the steps you will take to find the right job for you, and
  • follow-up support, if needed, to help you reach your goals. (This help is available during the four months after the program.)

Once the Pre-Employment Development program is complete, you will have developed your employment plan. It will outline your short-term and long-term goals based on your interests, abilities and employment goals.

For more information, talk to your caseworker.


Establish Bank Account

Canada has one of the safest banking systems in the world. There are 22 domestic banks in operation. Below is the list of the "Big Five Candian Banks" in order from largest to smallest, these 5 banks plus the Bank of Canada account for 90% of the assests of the Canadian banking business. There are other banks in operation in Canada (78 in total, including American, European and other international banks). The Canadian Bankers Association website has lots of information about understanding credit, savings and investing, small business loans and more. Click on

28 Days to submit

Financial Literacy

Medical Examination

ESL/Language classes

Refugee Claimants are not eligible for LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers) classes. However, both Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic Distict School Board offer English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for refugee claimants.

Register children in school

Elementary School Ages 4-13 (Kindergarten to Grade 8)

  • Toronto District School Board (TDSB)
    Open to all students
    Go directly to your local school to register. To find a local school call 416-394-7526 or check online at
    TDSB Street Guide:
  • Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB)
    Open only to Catholic children or children of Catholic parents. Baptismal certificate required for admittance.
    Registration for Kindergarten & French Immersion begins in January
    Call the Orientation Centre for an appointment
    700 Markham St

Secondary School Ages 14-17 (Grades 9-12)

  • Toronto District School Board (TDSB)
    Open to all students. Visit the Greenwood Reception Centre:
    24 Mountjoy Ave
    The centre will conduct an assessment of English proficiency and math skills. Please bring Immigration papers, two pieces proof of address, school documents and immunization records.
  • Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB)
    Open to all students
    Call the Orientation Centre for an appointment
    700 Markham St


All school age children must have up to date immunizations before they register for school.

The Toronto Public Health website has information on immunization schedules, vaccine fact sheets and immunization and pregnancy.

For more information call 416-392-1250

Interpreters are available Monday to Friday 8:30 to 4:30


Refugee Claimants' Rights

Toronto Public Library

Rights and Responsibilities

Info on Daily Life


The TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) is the public transit for the City of Toronto. The TTC includes buses, streetcars and the subway.

Some tips for using the TTC:

  • A fare allows you to travel in one direction across the city without stops. Once you stop (to shop or run other errands) you must pay another fare.
  • Always carry a transfer (which you must get where you paid your fare - from a bus/streetcar driver or from a machine at the subway).
  • If you are doing several trips in one day - purchase a day pass which will give you unlimited travelling for the day
  • Monthly pass (Metropass) and tokens are available - these are cheaper than paying cash
  • Always wait for buses and streetcars to stop before you step out on to the street

For more information, routes and fares go to the TTC website:


Grocery Stores

  • Valu-Mart
    Danforth and Woodbine
    Google Map location?
  • Beach Valu-Mart
    Queen and Kingston Rd
    Google Map location?

Pharmacies/Drug Stores

  • Shoppers Drug Mart
    Danforth and Pape
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
    Broadview and Danforth
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
    Lakeshore and Leslie

Department Stores

  • Zellers
    Danforth and Victoria Park

Thrift Stores (second hand/used merchandise)

Health Care System

Community Health Centres

Community Health Centres (CHCs) are non-profit community-based agencies. They are funded to provide support to their local neighbourhood including providing services for people without OHIP. They offer 3 months free health care for newcomers - some conditions apply - please call for details)

Interim Federal Health Program

Citizenship and Immigration Canada funds the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP). Refugee claimants, resettled refugees, persons detained under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, victims of trafficking in persons and the in-Canada dependants of these groups who are unable to pay for health care are eligible for benefits under the IFHP until they become eligible for provincial/territorial or private health plan coverage.

Medavie Blue Cross administers the IFHP. More information is available on Medavie’s website or at the Medavie Customer Information Centre at 1-888-614-1880.

IFH extension application form is available at:

Dental Care

Mental Health Care

Family Doctor

The College of Physicians and Surgeons has a "doctors search" service.

You can also register with Health Care Connect

Community Recreation Centres

Apply for Work Permit

Refugee Claimants need a written authorization to work in Canada. You can apply for a Work Permit after your Personal Information Form (PIF) has been given to the Immigration and Refugee Board and you have completed the Immigration Medical.

The information and application forms can be found online at:

If you are a refugee claimant you will need to prove that you cannot support yourself without recourse to social assistance (welfare).

Apply for SIN card

What is it?

  • To work in Canada, you must have a social insurance number. However, this card is not an authorization to work in Canada.
  • It is the most important document because you will use this for life as long as you live in Canada.
  • Revenue Canada uses this number to identify people who earn money through work, pay taxes, contribute to pension plans and use government services.
  • It is an offense to use someone else's SIN card, loan or sell your SIN card, to have more than one SIN card. The penalty for these offenses is a fine and/or imprisonment.You can apply for SIN number in person at the Service Canada offices.
  • Refugee claimants must have a valid work permit to apply for a SIN Card.
  • Once you have a work permit, get the application form for a SIN card online (see the link below).
  • Collect proof of immigration document and proof of photo identity.
  • Visit Service Canada office to complete your application.


Continuing Education

Refugee claimants are not allowed to apply for a university or a college program without first obtaining a study permit, which means that refugee claimants can only go to universities or colleges as international students. However, anyone including refugee claimants can attend a program with a duration of less than 6 months without obtaining a study permit.

Getting a High School Diploma as an Adult

Apply for study permit

Refugee claimants need to apply for a study permit before attending an educational institution. Instruction guide and application package is available at:

Job Search Support

Credential Assessment

Before you proceed with your creditial assessment, determine the purpose of the assessment.

Do you wish to go to school - continue or upgrade your education? If so, contact the admissions office or the department of the university or college you are applying to obtain information on credential assessment.

Or is it for employment purposes? Here are a list of assessment centres:

  • World Education Services
    45 Charles St. Suite 700
    Toronto, ON
    toll free 866-343-0070
  • Comparative Education Services
    School of Continuing Studies
    158 St. George Street
    Toronto, Ontario M5S 2V8
  • International Credentials Assessment Service
    Ontario AgriCentre
    100 Stone Road West, Suite 303
    Guelph ON N1G 5L3

Canada's Labour Market

Getting Canadian Work Experience

Develop Community Connections

Permanent Housing

(non-profit agencies will help you find housing)


  • Apprenticeship is a hands-on training program for people who want to work in a skilled trade and who enjoy learning by doing. About 90 per cent of apprenticeship training is provided in the workplace by employers.
  • A person who wants to become an apprentice first finds an employer who wants to hire an apprentice. Then either the trainee or the employer contacts a training consultant at the closest apprenticeship office. Once the consultant determines that a high standard of training can be provided, the trainee and the employer sign an apprenticeship contract and the apprenticeship training begins. For the list of Apprenticeship Offices see:

Foreign-Trained Tradespeople

  • If you have experience in a skilled trade in your home country and want to work in Ontario, you need to learn whether you must have a Certificate of Qualification or not. To work in some trades, you must be certified. Certification in other trades is voluntary. For the list of trades for which certification is mandatory see:

Steps in Obtaining a Certificate of Qualification

  1. Contact a Workplace Support Services office to book an appointment with a training consultant.
  2. Bring your SIN card, letters from your current or past employers, certificates, diplomas, or licences, transcripts, letters from the unions (if applicable) to your appointment
  3. The training consultant will look at your documents and tell you whether you have the necessary skills and experience to wite the Certificate of Qualification examination.
  4. Pass the written examination.

Driver's Licence

A foreign driver's licence is valid for 60 days after you arrive in Canada. The length of time you have been driving and the country or province you may have come from affect the process of getting a driver's licence. To apply for a licence, you must show your valid foreign licence, pass a written test of your knowledge of Ontario's traffic rules, pass a vision test and pay the fees. You must also provide the original documents that confirm your identity and date of birth. You should visit a Driver Examination Centre first.

There are only 4 Driver Examination Centres in Toronto:

  1. Toronto Downsview
    Downsview Park
    37 Carl Hall Road
    Toronto, ON M3K 2E2
  2. Toronto Etobicoke
    Centenial Park Plaza
    5555 Eglinton Ave. W.
    Etobicoke, ON M9C 5M1
  3. Toronto Metro East
    Victoria Terrace Plaza
    1448 Lawrence Ave E., Unit 15
    North York, ON M4A 2S8
  4. Toronto Port Union
    The Village of Abbey Lane Shopping Centre
    91 Rylander Blvd., Unit #109A
    Scarborough, ON M1B 5M5

Driver and Vehicle Licensing

Newcomers who bring a car or truck from another country have 30 days to register their vehicles and get Ontario licence plates and vehicle permits. Visit one of the Driver and Vehicle Licence Issuing Offices.

  1. ServiceOntario Lakeshore
    1015 Lake Shore Boulevard East

Workers' Rights EI

Claim Accepted

Apply for PR

You must apply for permanent resident status within 180 days of being notified by the IRB or Citizenship and Immigration Canada that your refugee claim was accepted and you are a Protected Person.

Before completing the application form for permanent residence, it is important that you read the instruction guide which is available at:

Application form is available at:

For more information, you can call Citizenship and Immigration Canada call centre at:

  • 1-888-242-2100

Apply for OHIP

Claim rejected

Humanitarian and Compassionate Application

You may apply for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds if you:

  1. currently live in Canada and
  2. are not eligible to apply for permanent residence from within Canada in any of the other classes and
  3. believe you would experience unusual and undeserved or disproportionate hardship if you were required to leave Canada.

Applications for permanent residence made on humanitarian and compassionate grounds are only approved in exceptional circumstances and it could take up to several years to process an application.

There is no guarantee that your application will be approved and there is no right of appeal for a refused application for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Instruction guide and application package are available at:

For more information, you can call Citizenship and Immigration Canada call centre at:

  • 1-888-242-2100

Judicial Review


Accepted (Judicial review)


Accepted (Humanitarian)

Eligible for programs