Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement

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The Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States (U.S.) is part of the U.S.–Canada Smart Border Action Plan.

Under the Agreement, refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in, unless they qualify for an exception to the Agreement.

The Agreement helps both governments better manage access to the refugee system in each country for people crossing the Canada–U.S. land border. The two countries signed the Agreement on December 5, 2002, and it came into effect on December 29, 2004. To date, the U.S. is the only country that is designated as a STA by Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The Agreement does not apply to U.S. citizens or habitual residents of the U.S. who are not citizens of any country (“stateless persons”).

Exceptions to the Agreement consider the importance of family unity, the best interests of children and the public interest.

There are four types of exceptions:

  • Family member exceptions
  • Unaccompanied minors exception
  • Document holder exceptions
  • Public interest exceptions

Even if they qualify for one of these exceptions, refugee claimants must still meet all other eligibility criteria of Canada’s immigration legislation. For example, if a person seeking refugee protection has been found inadmissible in Canada on the grounds of security, for violating human or international rights, or for serious criminality, that person will not be eligible to make a refugee claim.

The interview

A border services officer will interview the claimant and refer his/her claim to a second border services officer who will review the file and decide if the claimant is eligible to have his/her claim referred to the Immigration Refugee Board (IRB).

Note: The border services officer will not decide if the claimant is a Convention refugee or a person in need of protection. This decision is made by an independent organization, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). It is the claimant's responsibility to prove to the IRB that he/she is a CONVENTION REFUGEE or a person in need of protection.

If the claimant does not speak English or French, an interpreter will assist the claimant by phone or in person and the claimant may ask questions if he/she does not understand what is being explained to him/her.

A refugee claimant is allowed to bring a third party with him/her to the interview. In this case however, the claimant should notify the border services officer before the interview begins. This person cannot speak on the refugee claimant's behalf or interfere with the proceedings during the interview and cannot delay the process.

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