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The United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is an international treaty that defines who a refugee is and what rights that refugee may have in Canada. 

If Canada has found you to be a refugee, Canadian law only guarantees you temporary protection for as long as it is needed.

Until you have become a Canadian citizen, your status in Canada is not permanent, even if you are a permanent resident.

The most common way to lose your status is when Canada Immigration believes that you no longer need protection. When this happens, they file a cessation application with the Immigration and Refugee Board saying that you have ceased to be a refugee. This is called a Cessation Application.

Are you at risk of a Cessation Application?

You are at risk by just renewing a passport or using a passport to cross a border. A brief shopping trip to the United States might be all that it takes for you to lose all your status in Canada.

The most serious risk is when a refugee returns to their home country—no matter what the reason and no matter how brief their visit. 

Harsh Consequences of a Cessation Application

If Canada Immigration is successful in its cessation application, you will automatically lose permanent resident status. If you were in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen your citizenship application is cancelled.  All your efforts to make Canada your home will have been wasted.  

If, as a refugee, you sponsored a spouse or children to come to Canada, and you cease to be a refugee, your family gets to stay, but you can be forced to leave

How can this happen? And how can you prevent it happening to you?

Cessation can occur when:

– a refugee applies for a passport 

– a refugee renews a passport

– a refugee uses a passport to cross an international border

– a refugee goes back to their home country, no matter why or for how long

– a refugee acquires citizenship in another country 

– a refugee resumes living in their home country

Six Ways to Avoid Losing your Status in Canada 

If the Canadian government has recognized you as a refugee, the best way to avoid cessation is:

  1. Do not renew your passport or use your passport
  2. Do not visit your country of origin
  3. Do apply for a refugee travel document – this permits travel to most countries except your home country 
  4. Do apply for Canadian citizenship as soon as possible
  5. Consult an experienced immigration lawyer immediately if you have any concerns – especially if you think a cessation investigation has started. Ask the lawyer directly if they have experience in refugee cessation cases. Cessation is a very complex area of law. Depending on your own unique circumstances, an experienced immigration lawyer will help you choose the best way to respond.
  6. Think ahead before you even make a refugee claim. Think carefully about the impact this will have on your life. Perhaps there is another way you can remain in Canada, such as spousal sponsorship, a humanitarian and compassionate application, or temporary status such as student or worker. If you are afraid of going back to your country a refugee claim may be your best option, but consulting an experienced immigration lawyer can help you make this decision.

If you or anyone you know has concerns about how to prevent or how to respond to a cessation application, I would be pleased to help. Please contact me for information or assistance at [email protected]

In 1989, during his second year at Osgoode Hall Law School, Douglas was given the following advice from one of his professors: “Law is hard work; it also is stressful, rewarding, frustrating, and, if you are lucky, you will be well paid. Only one of those features will keep you from burning out in 5…

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