During the Canadian immigration process, it may not be entirely clear to you the difference between each government department you encounter. The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada is different from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and is separated into four divisions. This blog post discusses this administrative tribunal and its counterparts to better understand what to expect when you apply to immigrate to Canada.
The Immigration and Refugee Board is not the first government agency newcomers encounter
Most newcomers will interact with other Canadian immigration bodies before encountering the Immigration and Refugee Board, including the Canada Border Services Agency and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)
When you first come to Canada, you will inevitably engage with officers at your port of entry. These are members of the Canada Border Services Agency (or CBSA).
The Canada Border Services Agency primarily oversees the flow of travel and trade into Canada and places an enforcement role in the immigration process. Specifically, the CBSA enforces detention of foreign nationals, deportation (also called removal), investigations, and gathering intelligence overseas pertinent to immigration. The CBSA can also refer cases to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
Whether you are applying outside or from within Canada, your application to immigrate goes to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (or IRCC). Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is a government body primarily responsible for immigration and refugee matters. It selects which immigrants can come to Canada, issues visas for visitors, grants citizenship, and determines who is eligible for refugee protection. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada also refers cases to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
What is the Immigration and Refugee Board?
The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada is an administrative tribunal in Canada. Administrative tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies that make decisions on legal disputes. They are separate from the judiciary of the courts, but their rulings can sometimes be appealed to a court of law. They hear cases that fall under a specific area of law, such as immigration law. Administrative tribunals ensure administrative hearings are heard by decision-makers who are experts in that area of law.
The Immigration and Refugee Board makes decisions about immigration and refugee matters. It also decides who needs refugee protection when cases are referred to it by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. However, it is entirely independent of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
The four divisions of the Immigration and Refugee Board
The Immigration and Refugee Board is made up of four divisions:
- Immigration Division (ID)
- Immigration Appeal Division (IAD)
- Refugee Protection Division (RPD)
- Refugee Appeal Division (RAD)
Each of these divisions is responsible for distinct issues. Hearings at these divisions must be exhausted before further appeals are available in the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal.
Immigration Division (ID)
The Immigration Division is responsible for holding admissibility hearings. These hearings are held at the request of either the Canada Border Services Agency or Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Usually, these hearings involve foreign nationals, or permanent residents who either government agency believes may be inadmissible or removable from Canada.
Foreign nationals are individuals in Canada who are neither Canadian citizens nor permanent residents. Permanent residents are those who have applied and acquired this status in Canada. Either foreign nationals or permanent residents may be inadmissible to Canada under the following grounds:
- The foreign national or permanent resident poses a security threat to Canada;
- The foreign national or permanent resident has violated human or international rights under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, Special Economic Measures Act, or the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act;
- The foreign national or permanent resident has committed serious crimes inside or outside of Canada or engaged in organized criminality; or
- The foreign national or permanent resident has a health condition that may likely pose a danger to public health or safety, or cause excessive demand on health or social services.
Immigration Appeal Division (IAD)
The Immigration Appeal Division hears appeals of immigration matters. If an application for family class sponsorship is refused by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the Immigration Appeals Division can re-assess the case.
The IAD hears appeals of removal orders (deportation) about permanent residents and other protected persons. It also hears appeals from permanent residents that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada have deemed to have breached their residency obligations. Finally, when the Minister of Public Safety wishes to appeal a decision made by the Immigration Division, they have recourse within this division.
Refugee Protection Division (RPD)
The Refugee Protection Division is responsible for hearing claims for refugee protection made within Canada. This division is responsible for making these decisions under the international Geneva Convention, which has been implemented through the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
When a foreign national arrives in Canada seeking refugee protection, their first contact is usually with an officer of the Canada Border Service Agency at their port of entry. Alternatively, they can speak to officers at any inland office of the Canada Border Services Agency or Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. After reviewing the protection claim, the officer decides if the claim is eligible to be referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. If it is, the refugee protection process starts when it is referred to the Refugee Protection Division.
Refugee Appeal Division (RAD)
The Refugee Appeal Division is responsible for hearing and deciding on appeals from the Refugee Protection Division. The RAD can confirm or later the Refugee Protection Division's decision or may refer cases back to the RPD which further directions.
The Immigration and Refugee Board is not the final destination for immigration disputes
While not the final stop in the Canadian immigration process for all new immigrants, the Immigration and Refugee Board plays a vital role in the flow of newcomers to Canada. If a prospective immigrant to Canada is unsuccessful in each of its four divisions, further recourse is available. Further appeals can be made to the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal for a final determination. As this process can be legally and technically complex, potential newcomers should contact a qualified immigration lawyer to understand their rights and obligations.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.