Claiming refugee protection - 4. Attending your hearing

If you have a claim for refugee protection pending before the RPD, you must keep your contact information up ​to date with the IRB. If your contact information changes, you must immediately inform the IRB of the changes in writing. The IRB will not be able to reach you without your correct contact information.

The RPD will send you a Notice to Appear by mail when your claim is ready to be heard. On the Notice to Appear, there are two dates. The first date is the date of your hearing. The second date on your Notice to Appear is for a special hearing. In the event that you do not attend your hearing, you must appear at your special hearing to explain why you were not able to attend your hearing. At the special hearing, the member will determine whether your claim should be declared abandoned.

Hearings usually take half a day and take place in private in order to protect you and your family. There is usually a short break about halfway through the hearing.

Young children under the age of 12 who are accompanied by an adult making a refugee claim are not required to appear before the Refugee Protection Division unless the presiding member requires their attendance. When a member determines that it is necessary for a young claimant to attend the hearing, you will be informed at the earliest possible opportunity. In some situations, older children will need to participate in the hearing. If you have concerns or questions about your child participating in the hearing, contact the RPD before your hearing or raise your concerns with the member at the hearing.

If the RPD member cannot be in the same city as you, your hearing may take place by videoconference.

Text format

This image shows all of the potential participants in a refugee protection hearing before the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

Member: This is the impartial decision-maker who will be making a decision on your claim. They will be asking you questions.

Minister’s Counsel: A representative from CBSA or IRCC will sometimes be present to oppose your refugee claim. If so, they will tell you before your hearing.

Your Counsel: If you hired a lawyer or an immigration consultant, this person will help you present your claim. They will be asking you questions.

Interpreter: You can have an interpreter at your hearing at no cost to you by requesting it in your BOC Form.

Observer: You may have a friend or a family member attend.

You: The refugee protection claimant


What will happen at your hearing

1. The hearing begins

The member will introduce everyone and explain the hearing process to you. You will then make a solemn affirmation, which is a promise to tell the truth.

2. Exhibits are numbered

The member will go through all the documents that have been submitted into evidence and will assign an exhibit number to each. The member may also look at the original documents that you bring to the hearing.

3. You will testify

You will be asked questions by the member and by your counsel (if you have one). If you do not have counsel, the member may ask you more questions and give you an opportunity to tell the member what you think is important.

The Minister’s counsel (if participating) may also ask questions.

4. Witnesses will testify

If you bring any witnesses, they will testify after you have testified. Any witnesses you bring to your hearing will be asked to stay in the waiting room and will not join the hearing until after you have testified. The witnesses will then be asked to come in one by one to answer questions.

5. Comments (representations) will be made about your case

After you and any witnesses have testified, the member will ask you or your counsel to explain why you think your claim should be accepted. If the Minister’s counsel is participating, the member will give them an opportunity to comment on your case as well.

6. The member will make a decision.

The member may decide your claim and tell you orally the decision at the end of your hearing or they may wait and send you the decision by mail. In either case, you will receive a written Notice of Decision, which states the decision and the reasons why your claim was accepted or rejected. If your claim is rejected, the Notice of Decision will also indicate whether you can appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) or make an application to the Federal Court.

If you would like to...

  • Change the official language (English or French) of your hearing

    Ask the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) at least 10 days before the hearing.

  • Change the language or dialect to be interpreted at your hearing

    Ask the RPD at least 10 days before the hearing.

  • Change the location of your hearing

    Submit an application at least 20 days before the hearing

    *The RPD will only agree to do so in certain circumstances. In deciding, it will consider

    • whether you are residing in the location where you want the hearing to be held;
    • whether a change of location would allow the proceeding to be full and proper;
    • whether a change of location would likely delay the proceeding;
    • how a change of location would affect the Division's operation;
    • how a change of location would affect the parties;
    • whether a change of location is necessary to accommodate a vulnerable person; and
    • whether a hearing may be conducted by means of live telecommunication with the claimant.
  • Change the date or time of your hearing

    Ask the RPD at least 3 days before the hearing.

    *The RPD will only agree to do so in exceptional circumstances.