Refugee Protection Division virtual hearing guide

​​​​This guide provides information about virtual hearings held by the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) using Microsoft Teams video conferencing technology.

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Types of hearings

The RPD uses 3 hearing formats to hear claims for refugee protection or a Minister’s application to cease or vacate refugee protection:

  • virtual hearing - use your own equipment at your home, office, or other private space to participate in the hearing virtually
  • hybrid hearing - come to an IRB office to use the IRB’s computer equipment to access the hearing virtually
  • in-person hearing - come to an IRB office to attend the hearing in the presence of the other parties and the RPD member

RPD hearings are scheduled as virtual hearings by default. If you have concerns about virtual hearings, you can request that your hearing take place at an IRB office as a hybrid or an in-person hearing.

See the RPD’s claimant's guide for general information about refugee hearings at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

What participants need for a virtual hearing

In order to have a remote virtual hearing, participants should meet the following requirements:

Have access to a private and distraction-free location with good lighting and minimal background noise.

Have a laptop, desktop, tablet computer, or smartphone with a camera (webcam) and access to high speed internet sufficient to reliably videoconference. Your network speed should be a minimum of 1.5 Mbps. Test the speed of your network by running a speed test on Google.


Have access to a telephone throughout the hearing, in case there is a connection issue.


Have a home/office technology setup that is sufficiently secure and private. Whether participants are participating in a public or private hearing, we strongly recommend they follow the Government of Canada’s “Cyber Safe” recommendations.

Alternatively, any claimants or protected persons who do not meet the above requirements but still want a virtual hearing may ask to connect to their hearing from an IRB office using an IRB computer. This is called a hybrid hearing.

How to request a hybrid hearing

You can request a hybrid hearing by contacting the RPD registry listed on the IRB’s Regional contact information page. See Practice Notice: Scheduling of virtual, hybrid, and in-person hearings at the IRB for more information.

Hybrid hearings are intended for claimants who do not have access to the necessary equipment or private location or have other concerns about participating in a virtual hearing.

With this option, you will use a computer at an IRB office to participate in the hearing virtually.

If you make your request for a hybrid hearing within 10 working days of the hearing, you must:

  • contact the appropriate registry in writing
  • include an explanation of why the request was not made on a timely basis
  • include any​ documents that support the reason your request is late

How to request an in-person hearing

To make a request for an in-person hearing, you must complete an application form and, in some cases, provide reasons for your request.

The form has instructions on where to send your completed application and guides you in providing your reasons for asking for an in-person hearing, if applicable. 

For hearings scheduled on or after September 5, 2023:​ a new practice notice applies. For more information, please read the Practice Notice: Scheduling of virtual and in-person hearings at the IRB. The updated practice notice allows for certain categories of claimants to make an application for an in-person hearing without providing reasons.

Important: We will hold your claim as a virtual hearing unless we receive an application form to request an in-person hearing from you.

Important: We will hold your claim as a virtual hearing unless we receive an application form to request an in-person hearing from you.

How to request observers at a hearing

Contact the IRB Registry to request to have a friend or family member attend your hearing. An observer does not talk or otherwise actively participate in the hearing. According to RPD Rules, the RPD must allow the attendance of observers unless, in the opinion of the RPD, the observers’ attendance will impede the proceeding.

Note that this rule does not apply to members of the media. Media who wish to observe a hearing should contact media relations.

Connecting to the virtual hearing

Registry emails you the invitation link

The RPD holds virtual hearings using Microsoft Teams. In advance of the hearing, the RPD Registry will send a hearing invitation link by email to counsel, or directly to the claimant/protected person if they are self-represented. This link will allow participants and observers to connect to the hearing.

Witnesses or permitted observers

A witness or observer can participate in the virtual hearing via telephone or videoconferencing using Microsoft Teams. Normally, it is best to have the witness or observer connect to the hearing using Microsoft Teams. It is also possible to phone a witness or have a witness phone into the hearing to the phone number that will be associated with the hearing.

How to download Microsoft Teams

For a better user experience, it is recommended that participants and observers download the free Microsoft Teams application rather than use the web-based Microsoft Teams interface. For instructions on how to download the free Microsoft Teams mobile app follow Microsoft’s instructions.


Microsoft Teams is available in the language of your choice. To change the application’s language, click on your initials on the top right of the screen, select “Settings”, go to “General Settings”, scroll down, and select the language you want.

How to connect to the virtual hearing

  1. The IRB will provide participants and observers (if any) with Microsoft Teams connection details.
  2. Fifteen minutes before the start-time specified in the Notice to Appear, participants should click on the link: Join Microsoft Teams Meeting.
  3. They will be directed to the page on their default browser and will have some options:
    • Go to the Microsoft Teams application if participants have already installed it on their device.
    • Download the application if participants wish to join using the application
    • Join on the web instead if participants wish to connect through the web browser. Note that if their web browser is not supported this page will advise participants and will suggest an alternative. In either case, downloading the app is preferred.
  4. Type in their full name (first and last name) to join the meeting. Participants may also add a description of who they are (for example: counsel, appellant, witness, observer). Participants will have to give Microsoft Teams access to their camera and microphone; they must agree to this.
  5. Participants will be placed in a virtual lobby until an IRB employee accepts them into the hearing room. Note that if they join the meeting too early, they will be removed from the virtual lobby after 15 minutes. If this happens, participants can reconnect using the same link.

Participants are encouraged to watch a video on joining a Microsoft Teams meeting.

What the buttons in the Microsoft Teams software do

During a virtual hearing using Microsoft Teams, participants will see the following options:

  • Click on the show participants icon to see a list of all the participants in the hearing
  • Click on the show conversation icon to see the chat window on the side of the screen
  • Click on the hand if you want to get the attention of the member
  • Click on the ellipsis (…) for more options, including to check device settings, change the background, and turn off incoming video
  • Click on the camera icon to turn your video on and off
  • Click on the microphone icon to mute or unmute yourself
  • Click on the share icon to share all or part of your screen for other participants to see, for example if you want to show others a document
  • Click on the red phone icon to end the meeting when the hearing is finished

The web browser version of Microsoft Teams only displays the video of the person speaking. To prevent this, pin those you want to see by clicking on ‘show participants’, clicking on the ellipsis next to the participant you want to pin, and selecting ‘Pin’.

How to check that your audio and video are working in advance of the hearing date


Test the link to the virtual hearing prior to the hearing to check that the microphone and webcam are being recognized by Microsoft Teams and see what your video will look like.

Participants should test the link that they receive to the virtual hearing in advance of the hearing date. While it is not necessary to download any particular software, for the best experience participants should download the Microsoft Teams app in advance of the hearing, and ensure they are familiar with the microphone, webcam, and speaker on their device.

In order to have a virtual hearing, one should have access to an internet connection that is stable and fast enough to facilitate reliable videoconferencing. Public networks, such as those in cafes, should not be used to access Microsoft Teams for the hearing. Normally, the speed of your network should be a minimum of 1.5 Mbps. You can test the speed of your network by running a speed test on Google.

Joining a virtual proceeding

On the day of the virtual hearing, participants must join the proceeding using the link and instructions provided in the email from the Registry. Participants should join 15 minutes before the start time indicated in the Notice to Appear.

Poor connection quality

The RPD recognizes that the quality of the call may vary throughout a hearing. This will be monitored by the member to ensure the hearing proceeds fairly. Participants should alert the member immediately if they experience any problems with the video or the audio quality during the hearing (e.g., if they are unable to clearly see or hear other participants, the connection begins to lag, they miss anything that is said, or they are disconnected during the hearing).

How virtual hearings are recorded


Counsel, parties, observers, and witnesses are prohibited from recording the virtual hearing, including by taking photos or screenshots. All recording is to be done by the IRB.

The IRB will record the audio and video of the hearing through the Microsoft Teams recording function. When ‘recording’ is turned on in Microsoft Teams, each participant will receive an alert and see a red dot that indicates that the video and audio are being saved.

Tips for participating in the virtual hearing

The RPD member will monitor the quality of the call to ensure the hearing proceeds fairly.

To help ensure your hearing goes smoothly:


Mute your microphone when not speaking for a significant time.


Use a device with a large screen. We do not recommend using a smartphone because of their small screens. If you do use a phone, do not hold it in your hand throughout the hearing, but instead position it in front of you in a stable position such as on a table. Position yourself to be seen in the middle of the screen.


Ensure you're in a quiet, distraction-free location, with good lighting, and minimal background noise. Use an appropriate camera angle and background for your video.


Use headphones that have a microphone to avoid echo and improve audio quality.


Ensure devices are plugged in and charging during the hearing, as videoconferencing can drain the batteries of devices quickly.


Consider using a phone as the audio connection to the hearing and the computer for video streaming only if your internet connection is slow. If the internet connection in your location is slow, participants can consider using a phone as the audio connection to the hearing and the computer for video streaming only.


Ask others in your household to avoid using the internet during your hearing. If participants are sharing an internet connection with others in their household, the connection may be improved if they have sole use of the bandwidth during the hearing.

Privacy, confidentiality, and integrity of testimony

At the beginning of the hearing, the member will have the participants introduce themselves and confirm that they are alone in their locations. The member will remind all participants that the hearing is fully confidential. Participants should note that:

  • All parties should normally be visible on screen throughout the hearing. This includes claimants, protected persons, their counsel, and counsel for the Minister. If this will not be possible, the party should bring this to the member’s attention at the beginning of the hearing and the Member will be able to decide whether the hearing can continue virtually.
  • The member will ask observers, such as any IRB staff, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representatives, support persons, or family members, to introduce themselves on the record, present themselves in front of the camera, and confirm that they will not participate in the hearing by any means.
  • Claimants should not read from their Basis of Claim (BOC) form or from their notes during the hearing without obtaining permission from the member.
  • Witnesses must not communicate with anyone (other than their counsel) about their evidence during the hearing and during any breaks.
  • Witnesses should ensure that the interpreter has enough time to fully interpret their responses to questions. To do this, witnesses should pause often to let the interpreter translate.
  • Claimants, protected persons, and witnesses should not use their cell phones during the hearing if they are not using the Microsoft Teams app on their phones to connect to the virtual hearing. Claimants and protected persons may use their cell phone to communicate with their counsel at other times, for example during a break.

Security and virtual proceedings

The Microsoft Teams platform runs on a secured Government of Canada network. IRB registry staff and the member who decides the case will connect to the hearing on this secured network. Any representatives of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness or the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship who participate in a hearing will also connect to the hearing using a Government of Canada device connected to this network. This secured network meets all necessary Government of Canada privacy and confidentiality requirements.

Learn more about Security and Microsoft Teams.

IRB interpreters will connect to the hearing using their own personal device. IRB interpreters must maintain the privacy of all information and follow best practices for ensuring security and privacy. All IRB interpreters who participate in a virtual hearing will ensure that their device complies with the Government of Canada’s “Cyber Safe” recommendations.

Other participants will normally connect to the virtual hearing using their own personal computers or phones. The IRB has no control over the security of such devices. Should there be a security breach through a participant’s personal device, there is a risk that a third party could obtain information being shared over the internet during the hearing. To reduce the chance of information being disclosed, participants should take reasonable precautions, including ensuring that the electronic device they use for the hearing complies with the Government of Canada’s Get Cyber Safe recommendations.

Find Government of Canada recommendations to secure your devices.

Audio and video quality during the virtual hearing

At the beginning of the hearing, the member will confirm that the quality of the audio and video is adequate. You should alert the member immediately if:

  • you can’t clearly see or hear other participants
  • the connection begins to lag
  • you miss anything that is said
  • you are disconnected during the hearing

Participants can alert the member by:

  • using the Chat or Raise hand features within Microsoft Teams
  • contacting their counsel (if they have counsel)
  • contacting the Registry Officer

If the issue persists and participants are disconnected from the call, they should:

  • try reconnecting by clicking on the hearing invitation link again
  • try connecting from another device, such as a smartphone
  • call in using the telephone option in the email from the IRB with the hearing invitation link
  • call the IRB at the phone number provided by the Registry staff during check-in or the phone number on the Notice to Appear​

The member may also try to call participants at the phone number provided if a connection issue arises.

If a participant cannot rejoin the hearing after attempting the above steps, they should inform their counsel or the Registry Officer. The hearing will be paused until they can reconnect.

Note: Observers should not interrupt the member if they experience connection or audio issues.

How counsel and claimants can have private conversations during hearing breaks

If claimants have counsel, they may need to communicate with each other privately during the hearing. One example of how this can be done is by phoning each other during a break. To ensure the phone conversation is private, participants should be sure to mute themselves and turn off the video camera in Microsoft Teams. If participants are accessing the hearing from an IRB office, the microphone connected to the computer has an off switch that can be pressed to ensure that the conversation is private.

How to show the RPD member a document during the hearing

Everyone, including claimants and counsel, should have access to a complete and identical set of page numbered documents during the hearing. Participants can also share their screens during the hearing to show others a digital document. For example, during submissions, counsel may wish to share their screen to point the member to a part of a case they are looking at. Participants can do this using the share icon.

How counsel can get a Confirmation of Appearance form

For counsel in Quebec who require it, you can ask the Registry staff who set up the Microsoft Teams connection to provide you with a Confirmation of Appearance form following the hearing. If requested, Registry staff will send you a Confirmation of Appearance by fax or through the IRB portal, if you are registered, about 24 hours after the hearing.

If you did not request a Confirmation of Appearance before the hearing started, please submit a written request to the RPD Registry by fax (514-283-0164), by t Connect, or by email. Please note that requests submitted via email must be in the form of a PDF attachment. The subject line of the email must state the RPD file number, the date of the hearing, and the type of request (e.g., Confirmation of Appearance form). In your written request, please specify the duration of the hearing.

Getting help

If you have any questions, please contact the IRB Registry at the phone numbers listed on the IRB’s contact information web page. Faxes and emails should be sent to the fax number and email address included in the Notice to Appear for a virtual hearing for the case.