How do I prepare for my refugee hearing?

After you file your Basis of Claim (BOC) form, you will have a hearing at the Refugee Board. A Board member decides whether to accept or refuse your claim.

If you have a lawyer or other legal representative, the Refugee Board will contact that person to schedule a hearing date. If you don’t have a legal representative, the Refugee Board will set your hearing date and then mail you a Notice to Appear. It’s important that the Refugee Board always has your current mailing address. If you plan to move, you must update your contact information before you move.  If you change your legal representative, you must update this information.

Your hearing date is the first date on the Notice to Appear. If you need to make changes, you must act quickly. You might be able to change the date, time, or location of your hearing if you can show “exceptional circumstances” but this is rare. An exceptional circumstance might be:

  • your legal representative is not available on the date
  • you need a new date because of your special needs or the needs of a family member
  • there has been an emergency or some other event beyond your control
  • you have moved to another location

File-review process and short hearings

Most claims are scheduled for a half day hearing that lasts about 4 hours.

Some refugee claims are reviewed to see if they can be decided without a hearing. This used to be called “expedited processing”.

Other claims might be selected for a short hearing if they are less complicated and can be heard in 2 hours or less. 

Abandonment hearing

It’s very important that you go to your hearing. If you don’t go, there is a second date on the Notice to Appear for a special hearing to decide if your refugee claim is . You must explain why you were not able to go to your hearing. You should try to bring that supports your explanation. A Board member decides if your claim will go ahead or if it will be considered abandoned. If your refugee claim goes ahead, be prepared to have your hearing that day. If your claim is considered abandoned, it will not be heard.

If the Board member decides that you abandoned your claim, get legal help right away. You might be able to reopen your claim or ask the Federal Court to review the decision.

Language rights

You have the right to a hearing in English or French. If you don’t speak English or French, it’s very important to ask for an interpreter. The Refugee Board will provide an interpreter for free if you ask for one. You need to be able to express yourself clearly and to understand all questions being asked at the hearing. 

Your Basis of Claim (BOC) form asks you to choose the language you prefer for your hearing. If you did not ask for an interpreter on your BOC but you now feel you need one, or if you want to change the language or dialect you chose, you must tell the Refugee Board in writing at least 10 days before your hearing.

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