Refugee Hearings
During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Navigating the refugee claim process can be complex, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The information and resources below will help you understand how COVID-19 is impacting the refugee claim process and better prepare for your refugee hearing.

How your refugee hearing will happen

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of refugee hearings at the Immigration and Refugee Board – Refugee Protection Division (IRB-RPD) are currently being held virtually on Microsoft Teams.
The IRB-RPD will tell you what format your hearing will take and provide instructions for your hearing in the Notice to Appear letter. Click below to read about the different types of hearings
currently being used.

You connect remotely via Microsoft Teams from your lawyer’s office or your home. The Board Member and other participants also connect remotely from their office or home.
You should be comfortable with the virtual format and make sure that you have the right technology and a private location.
Remote Hearing
You may not have a hearing if your case is selected for the File Review Process. The Board Member will consider your case and documentary evidence and may make a positive decision without a
hearing taking place. If the Board Member has additional questions your claim may go to a hearing. See more about the kinds of cases selected for the File Review Process here:
Less Complex Claims
File Review Process
You are in the Immigration and Refugee Board hearing room with your lawyer, however, the Board Member joins via videoconference.
Videoconference Hearing
You are in the Immigration and Refugee Board hearing room with all participants. Health and safety measures are in place, including plexiglass barriers and masks.
In Person Hearing

Frequently Asked Questions

You may have questions about the refugee hearing process during the pandemic. These are some of the most common questions. If you have additional questions that are not answered here please email ready@refugeeclaim.ca.

This is the biggest question many refugee claimants are asking. The IRB-RPD is working to schedule hearings as efficiently as possible, including those that were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It isn’t possible to say exactly when your hearing will be, as there are many factors that affect the scheduling of hearings. Your case has not been forgotten. Contact your lawyer to discuss this further if you have concerns.

The majority of hearings from now until approximately September 2021 will be virtual hearings, which take place online on Microsoft Teams. The IRB-RPD has made this change in order to maintain safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read more about virtual hearings in the IRB-RPD Virtual Hearings Guide. Only a select few urgent and particularly sensitive cases will be held in-person during this time. If you have a compelling reason why you feel an in-person hearing is more appropriate for you, speak to your lawyer if you have one, or write to the IRB-RPD with your reasons. You can find the contact information for the different IRB-RPD regions here.

There are a few things you should do in order to prepare for your virtual hearing:

  • Think about where you will be for your virtual hearing. If you have a lawyer, speak to them about whether you will be together in the same location during the hearing or not.
  • If you will not be at your lawyer’s office during the hearing, make sure that you have a quiet, private, and secure room where you can participate in the hearing without distraction.
  • Make sure you have the correct technology. You will need a computer or tablet with a video camera (a smartphone can also be used, but is not advised).
  • Check that you have a strong internet connection so that you will not lose connection during the hearing.
  • It is strongly recommended that you use headphones so that the interpreter and other participants can hear you clearly.
  • It is also strongly recommended that you download the desktop or mobile Microsoft Teams app and test it out with your lawyer or someone else before your hearing. More information about Microsoft Teams, including how to download the app, can be found here.
  • If you have children, make a plan for where they will be during your hearing. Arrange for them to have childcare or be in a separate room.

More tips can be found in the IRB-RPD Virtual Hearings Guide.

If you experience any technical difficulties, or have problems hearing or seeing the other participants, let the Member know right away! It is important that you are able to understand everything clearly, so don’t hesitate to speak up if there is a technical issue. If you are disconnected during your hearing, try going back to the Microsoft Teams link and reconnecting. If that doesn’t work, try connecting on a different device. You could also call in to the Microsoft Teams hearing with your phone, using the phone number provided in the email you received from the IRB-RPD with the hearing link. If these options don’t work, call the IRB-RPD to speak to a staff member using the phone number provided to you by the Registry officer at the beginning of your hearing.
During your virtual hearing you will connect remotely from a private location such as your lawyer’s office or your home. If you have a lawyer, you should discuss with them whether or not you are comfortable and willing to participate in the same room or not. This is up to you and your lawyer. If you will not be at your lawyer’s office you should find a quiet, private space where you can participate in the hearing without distraction. You will also need to ensure you have a strong internet connection and the right device to participate in the hearing.
It is very important that you are prepared for your hearing with the right technology (computer or device with video camera, strong internet, headphones, etc.) and that you have a comfortable and quiet place to have your virtual hearing. If you don’t have the right technology or a private space to participate in your virtual hearing you should let your lawyer know, if you have one. If you don’t have a lawyer write to the IRB to let them know you do not have the right technology and/or space to participate in the virtual hearing. You can also contact your settlement worker or any organizations that support you to see if they can help you find an appropriate solution. This is your hearing, and you should make sure that you feel as comfortable and prepared as possible.
No. Until further notice, children under 18 are not required to attend your hearing. The IRB-RPD will write to you to notify you if they would like to see your child during the hearing. If you do not receive such a request, you will not need to bring your child to your hearing.
You can provide documents by mail, fax, epost, or email. Until further notice, in-person delivery of documents to the IRB-RPD is not allowed. Information about how to send documents by email can be found under section 2 of this IRB webpage. Information about how to use epost can be found in this IRB practice notice. The page limit for faxing documents has increased from 20 to 50.
If your address or contact information changes, you need to let the IRB-RPD know as soon as possible. You can complete the Notification of Client Contact Information form and submit it to the IRB-RPD by mail, fax, epost or email. See more information about how to send documents in the question above.

Where to find support

Refugee Hearing Preparation Guide

RHPG

Personal, practical, and legal support is important for your refugee claim, especially during the pandemic. Ensure you have downloaded the Refugee Hearing Preparation Guide in your language and for your city. The back of your Guide contains contact information for local organizations that can help you navigate the refugee claim process during the COVID-19 pandemic.

READY Tours

READY Tours

Attend a virtual READY Tour to learn what to expect at your refugee hearing and how to prepare. READY Tours allow you to learn what takes place on your hearing day, hear from an Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada – Refugee Protection Division staff member about what your hearing will be like, and ask any questions you have about the hearing process.

 

How to prepare for a virtual hearing

If you are having a virtual hearing, make sure you feel comfortable with the format and the technology. Here are some useful resources to help you prepare for your virtual hearing:

 

How to prepare for a hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) building

Important steps are in place to keep everyone safe during the pandemic. Make sure you review all IRB safety procedures before attending an in-person hearing:

Special notices from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada – Refugee Protection Division (IRB-RPD)

The IRB-RPD has made announcements about changes affecting the refugee claim process during the pandemic. These notices cover updates to how hearings are operating, timelines for filing important documents, and changes to the ways you can submit your documents. These are some of the most recent notices:

  • Virtual Hearings at the IRB-RPD: This announcement contains important information about the decision made by the IRB-RPD to move to virtual hearings only. From January 18, 2021 until approximately September 2021, all hearings will be virtual, with only a select few exceptions made on a case-by-case basis.
    See more information here.
  • Extensions for Filing Basis of Claim Forms: The IRB-RPD has extended the time limit for filing your Basis of Claim form for people who have claimed refugee status at the Port of Entry after July 4, 2020.
    See more information here.
  • Submitting documents through Canada Post epost Connect: The IRB-RPD is allowing you to submit and receive documents electronically through Canada Post epost Connect.
    See more information here.