How to Immigrate to Canada as a Refugee

‍Canada is an excellent option if you're a refugee from Ukraine, Syria, or another country looking for a safe new home. With its strong economy, world-class education system, and generous refugee policies, Canada is an excellent place for refugees to settle and build a new life. On top of this, Canada is famous for its diverse, warm and welcoming culture toward immigrants and refugees alike.

Canada has a history of settling refugees dating back to 1776, and the Canadian government accepted 92,715 refugees between January and December 2022. As a result, not only is Canada a perfect option for the many benefits you will obtain once you arrive on Canadian soil, but it can be far easier to qualify for refugee status in Canada compared to nations of a similar standard.

This article will provide a step-by-step guide on how to move to Canada as a refugee. We'll cover the refugee system in Canada, the various refugee sponsorship programs, the country's entry, and how to apply for refugee status, access healthcare, find employment, and get an education. We'll also share some tips and strategies to ensure a smooth transition to life in Canada.

The Refugee System in Canada

Canada's Refugee System

Canada has a long history of welcoming refugees and has established an official refugee system to help those seeking a safe new home. The Canadian refugee system is based on international and domestic laws and Canada's humanitarian commitment to protect those fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries.

Under the Canadian refugee system, refugees can apply for asylum in Canada either directly to the government or through a private sponsor. Canada's government also has programs to help refugees settle and integrate into their new homes.

If you've come to Canada as a refugee, you can work in Canada with a Work permit. You could apply separately if you submitted your refugee claim before applying for a work permit.

Here's a full breakdown of how to apply for a Canadian work permit. However, to apply for a work permit as a refugee, you must take a few extra steps.

When uploading your documentation as part of your application, you must include a copy of your Refugee Protection Claimant document and proof that:

  • You've completed your immigration medical exam
  • You need a job in Canada to cover your basic needs
  • The family members you're requesting permits for are:
    • In Canada
    • Applying for Refugee status

To avoid delays, ensure the Canadian government always has your current address.

You can study in Canada as a refugee, provided you get a Canadian study permit. To obtain a study permit, you must have an acceptance letter from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) before you apply.

Here's a full breakdown of the Canadian study permit, eligibility requirements, and how to apply to get you started.

If you have an acceptance letter, you can apply for a study permit while you apply for refugee status. You can also include your acceptance letter with your application for refugee status to maximize your chances of being accepted.

Your family members can qualify for Canadian study permits if they apply for refugee status. However, if your members are school-age children, they don't need a study permit to go to school.

Canadian Refugee Protection Programs

The Canadian refugee system has two main parts. The first is the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program which is explicitly designed for UN- or privately-funded sponsors to help resettle international refugees in Canada.

The second is the In-Canada Asylum Program, which is explicitly designed for refugees already in Canada on a visa like a Canada tourist visa but cannot return to their country due to safety issues.

The Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program

Besides the government's refugee system, several private sponsorship programs are available to refugees applying outside Canada who wish to move to Canada. This program is designed to help refugees find housing, employment, and other services to help them get settled in their new homes.

Many refugees in Canada are resettled via private sponsorship programs. These programs are usually organized by private citizens, churches, community organizations, and other groups to support refugees financially and emotionally to help them adjust to their new homes.

These sponsors are matched to refugees identified by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and private sponsors by the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program. The refugees can be sponsored by several different sponsors, such as:

  • Sponsorship Agreement Holders
    • These are often private citizens or groups who have signed sponsorship agreements with the Government of Canada to be allowed to support refugees, often on an ongoing basis.
  • Groups of Five
    • At least five Canadian citizens or permanent residents can sponsor a refugee outside Canada to move to Canada.
  • Community Sponsors
    • Community organizations are designated to sponsor refugees to come to Canada.

The Canadian government carefully screens all resettlement cases to ensure no security, legal, or health issues.

Moving to Canada via this program means you cannot apply directly to the Canadian government site. You must apply to the UNHCR, a designated referral organization or a private sponsorship group.

In-Canada Asylum Program

The asylum program works to provide refugee protection to people in Canada who cannot return to their home country due to at risk of torture or cruel or unusual punishment in their home countries based on factors like

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Political opinion
  • Nationality
  • Belonging to a particular social group, such as women or the LGBTQ+ community

This means they have a well-founded fear of persecution upon their return.

However, this option is only open to certain people. If an asylum seeker has been convicted of serious criminal offences in the past or has had previous refugee claims denied, they will be ineligible for this program. While these are the main two reasons applicants may be rejected from this program, they will also be dismissed if:

Your refugee claim may not be eligible for this program if you:

  • Have gained Convention refugee status in another country that you can return to
  • Have protected person status in Canada
  • Passed through the Canada-United States border
  • Have made a confirmed refugee claim in another country
  • Are inadmissible to Canada
  • Have abandoned or withdrawn from a past refugee claim

The Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP)

The Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP) is a transformative initiative in Canada aimed at expanding the opportunities for refugees to settle and build their lives there. This innovative program was launched in 2018 by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in collaboration with other governmental and non-profit entities to challenge the traditional perception of refugees as passive aid recipients, instead recognizing their potential as economic contributors to Canada.

The Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot offers an alternative pathway for refugees with the skills and experience to fill labor gaps in Canada's economy. It exploits previously unutilized avenues under Canada’s economic immigration programs, such as the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class. Doing so creates a pathway for skilled refugees to become permanent residents of Canada based on their potential contribution to the economy rather than their need for resettlement.

Two types of EMPP programs exist: 

  • the Regional Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (Regional EMPP) and 
  • the Federal Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (Federal EMPP)

Here are the differences between the two programs:

Regional EMPP

  • Operates in specific regions of Canada
  • A designated referral organization must nominate candidates
  • Candidates must have a job offer in the region where they will settle

To be eligible for the Regional EMPP in Canada, you must meet the following requirements:

Federal EMPP

  • Operates across Canada
  • Candidates do not need to be nominated by a referral organization
  • Candidates do not need a job offer to apply. 
  • However, if you don't have a job offer, you must apply through the No Job Offer stream

To be eligible for the Federal EMPP, you must fulfil the requirements of either the Job Offer or No Job Offer streams. To be eligible for the job offer stream, you must:

  • Have a full-time, non-seasonal offer from a Canadian employer in a job listed in TEER Categories 0-5.
    • Your education and experience should align with your job's TEER category.
  • Have at least one year of paid work experience within the same TEER categories,
    • This can be part-time or include self-employment.  
  • Demonstrate English or French language skills with an approved test, scoring the minimum required for your job's TEER category.

To qualify for the No Job offer stream, you need the following:

  • Minimum one year of paid full-time or equivalent part-time work from the last three years in TEER category 0, 1, 2, or 3 of the National Occupational Classification. Self-employment does not qualify.
  • A Canadian secondary school credential or a foreign degree/diploma/certificate with an Educational Credential Assessment issued within the last five years.
  • Proven English or French skills via an approved test, with a minimum CLB/NCLC 7 score in all four language abilities.
  • Sufficient funds to support yourself and your family in Canada, with the amount dependent on family size.

How to Apply for Refugee Status in Canada

How to Apply for Canadian Refugee Status

The process for refugee status is straightforward and can be broken down into three simple steps.

Step 1: Ensure Your Eligibility

Before you begin the application process, you must fulfil all the eligibility criteria mentioned above. Suppose you are still determining whether you fulfil all the requirements. In that case, you should get a complete online or offline evaluation from a certified immigration expert to help you know your eligibility for certain.

Step 2: Fill Out Your Application Forms

First, you must fill out an application form available on the Government of Canada website or from the specific organization through which you are applying for refugee status. You must provide detailed information about your identity, background, and reasons for seeking refuge in Canada.

Step 3: Submit Your Application

Once your application is complete, submit it to one of Canada's Refugee Processing Centres. The processing centre will review your application and decide whether or not to grant you refugee status.

While this process may seem simple, ensuring you fulfil all eligibility requirements and follow, each step can be challenging. As time is of the essence, one of the best ways to guarantee your refugee status is to get help from a certified immigration expert like a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC).

RCICs can evaluate you to ensure you're eligible for your chosen program, fill out your application forms and help you deal with any regulatory bodies so you can get your start in Canada.

Why Canada is Perfect for Refugees

Canada is famous for its world-class infrastructure, picturesque natural beauty, vibrant cities and warm culture. However, as a refugee, there are far more essential benefits to life in Canada that make it perfect for resettlement.

Canada has numerous government programs to help newcomers settle quickly into life in Canada and has a special set of programs for refugees. Two of these are as follows.

Resettlement Assistance Program

The Government of Canada gives resettlement help to Convention Refugees, including refugees with special needs and government-assisted refugees.

The Canadian government provides funds to give refugees the following:

  • Government assistance at the airport or port of entry
  • A temporary place to live in Canada
  • Support with finding a permanent place to live
  • Basic household items and
  • Support with your early days in Canada.

You can also support yourself off the assistance program until you find a job in Canada or up to a year.

Here's a breakdown of how to get a job in Canada to help you start as early as possible.

Resettlement Assistance Program rates differ depending on the province you're moving to, so it's vital to know precisely how much to expect and how to prepare for it effectively. The Resettlement Assistance Program rates are on the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program's website.

To help you budget effectively, once you know your rates, here's a breakdown of the cost of living in Canada.

Immigration Loans Program

The Immigration Loans Program provides financial help to refugees selected for resettlement. The Canadian government provides you with a loan to help cover moving to Canada and whatever additional settlement costs you need once you arrive.

You must repay your loan monthly once you have lived in Canada for 12 months.

Outside of fantastic government programs, there are several perks to life in Canada. Just a few are as follows:


According to the World Population Review, Canada is one of the safest countries to live in. This is due to decades of political and economic stability, a lack of outside enemies, low crime rates, and a culture of kindness.

Learn more about Canada's world-class safety here

Public Healthcare

Once you receive refugee status in Canada, you will be eligible for healthcare coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program. This program provides access to essential healthcare services, including doctor's visits, hospital stays, and prescription drugs.

If a private group or organization sponsors you, you may also be eligible for additional healthcare coverage, such as extended health benefits.

It's important to note that refugee healthcare coverage is limited and may not cover all medical costs. Therefore, it's crucial to have a plan in place to cover any additional medical expenses.

Learn more about Canada's healthcare system.

The Canadian Job Market

Canada's job market is booming. As it currently stands, there are over a million jobs nationwide. Finding employment is essential in settling into Canada. Refugees who have been granted refugee status in Canada are eligible to work in the country but may face some challenges in finding employment.

Fortunately, many resources are available to help refugees find employment. For example, the Government of Canada's "Jobs for Refugees" program provides access to job postings and resources to help refugees find work. In addition, several private organizations offer job search assistance to refugees.

Publicly-funded Education

Refugees granted refugee status in Canada can access free education at the primary and secondary levels. In addition, refugees may be eligible for financial assistance to help cover the cost of post-secondary education.

The Government of Canada also offers programs to help refugees access post-secondary education, such as the Canada Student Loans Program and the Canada Student Grants Program. In addition, several private organizations offer refugees scholarships and other financial aid.

Learn more about Canada's education system.

A Welcoming, Diverse Culture

Canada is also home to a world-renowned level of kindness and inclusivity, making it one of the most diverse countries in the world. Over 270 languages are spoken throughout Canada, and the country welcomes internationals with open arms.

Learn more about Canada's multicultural, friendly nature.

Tips and Strategies for a Smooth Move to Canada

Tips and Strategies for a Smooth Move to Canada

Moving to Canada as a refugee can be daunting, but you can make the transition smoother. Here are some tips and strategies to keep in mind:

Research your Options

It's essential to research your options before making any decisions. Ensure you understand the requirements for entering Canada as a refugee and the various refugee sponsorship programs and other services available to refugees.

Have a Plan

Once you clearly understand your options, it's crucial to have a plan in place for your move to Canada. Ensure you have a timeline for applying for refugee status, finding employment, and accessing healthcare and education services.

Prepare for the Move

Before moving to Canada, preparing for the transition is essential. First, ensure you have all the documents and other materials for your refugee application.

Utilize Resources

Many resources are available to help refugees settle in Canada. Ensure you take advantage of the government programs and services and the private organizations offering support and assistance.

Stay Informed

It's essential to stay knowledgeable about the latest developments in Canadian refugee policy. So make sure you read up on the latest news and developments related to refugee issues in Canada.

One of the best ways to use all of these tips is to utilize the services of an RCIC. Here are some ways an RCIC can help you with your progress.


What Happens if My Refugee Application is Rejected?

If rejected, You can appeal your application with the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD). The Rad considers appeals against the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) decisions to allow or reject refugee protection claims.

How can Refugees in Canada Access Healthcare Services?

Refugees in Canada are entitled to the same healthcare services as Canadian citizens. In most provinces, refugees can access healthcare services provided by provincial or territorial health insurance plans.

Additionally, many provinces and territories offer special healthcare programs that provide access to basic healthcare services to refugees and other vulnerable groups in Canada.

What Kind of Legal Rights Do Refugees in Canada Have?

Refugees in Canada are entitled to the same legal rights as Canadian citizens, including the right to a fair trial, freedom of movement, and the right to vote. Additionally, refugees are protected from discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or national origin. Refugees also have the right to access legal aid and information on their rights and responsibilities under Canadian law.

Start a Great Future in Canada

Start a Great Future in Canada

Canada is the perfect home if you're looking for a safe, friendly environment with plenty of opportunities for a better life.

If you're a refugee seeking a safe new home, consider seeking professional advice and support. An RCIC can help you understand the refugee system in Canada and provide advice and guidance on the steps you need to take to settle in your new home.

If you're a refugee looking for a safe new home, contact one of our RCICs to start your journey to Canada. Our RCICs have the expertise and knowledge to ensure your move to Canada is as smooth and stress-free as possible.