Find out about legal aid for people with low incomes
Question & AnswerWhere can I get legal advice and help with my refugee claim?
You might be able to get a legal aid certificate if you have a low income and your legal issue is one that Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) covers. You have to give LAO information about any income, property, or savings that you have so they can decide if you meet their financial eligibility rules.
LAO gives out legal aid certificates to pay lawyers for specific refugee services, This includes to:
- prepare the Basis of Claim form,
- represent you at your refugee hearing,
- prepare an appeal,
- prepare an application for judicial review,
- represent you at a cessation or vacation hearing, and
- help you prepare for a (PRRA).
LAO will only pay consultants and paralegals who are employed by a lawyer. This means a lawyer must supervise their work under a .
If you get a certificate, a lawyer can charge LAO for up to a certain number of hours for the work that the certificate is for.
How LAO decides whether you qualify
LAO considers a number of things when deciding whether to give you a legal aid certificate.
For example, they look at whether your “case has merit”. So, if you’re appealing a refusal of your refugee claim, they look at how likely it is that your appeal will be successful.
They also consider whether a reasonable person who could pay for a lawyer would do that if they were in your situation.
If you get a legal aid certificate, you have to find a lawyer that will accept the certificate as payment. The LAO website has two lists of lawyers who are approved to accept legal aid certificates. You can also search for LAO-approved lawyers by office location and by language.
Refugee Law Offices
LAO has staff offices in Hamilton, Ottawa, and Toronto to help refugees. Lawyers at these offices might be able to represent refugee claimants who qualify for a legal aid certificate for:
- an appeal of a negative refugee claim to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD)
- an application to Federal Court for judicial review of a negative refugee claim
- refugee and immigration services, for particularly vulnerable clients, including those in detention.
Community legal clinics
LAO funds community legal clinics across Ontario to provide free legal services to people with low incomes. At these clinics, lawyers, paralegals, community legal workers, and sometimes law students help people with a variety of legal problems.
To get help from a community legal clinic:
- your legal issue must be one the clinic handles,
- you must live in the area the clinic serves, and
- your income and assets cannot be above a certain level.
Some clinics help people with immigration matters, but rarely represent clients with refugee claims. If you’re having trouble finding a lawyer to take your certificate, contact your local clinic. If your local clinic can’t help you, they might be able to refer you to someone in your community who can.