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Humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) applications and refugee claims: how are they different?

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What are some other differences between an H&C application and a refugee claim?

H&C Applications Refugee Claims
H&C applicants do not usually get an interview. IRCC usually decides based on the written application. Refugee claimants have the right to a hearing at the IRB.
Being established in Canada, with a work history and strong family relationships, increases an applicant's chances of success. Being established in Canada is not relevant to a refugee claim.

IRCC must consider any H&C reasons an applicant should be allowed to stay. They are not allowed to consider the risks the IRB considers when it decides a refugee claim. But a situation that puts someone at risk may also cause hardship and support an H&C application.

For example, a woman who is at risk because of an abusive spouse in her home country may be able to show H&C reasons she should not be forced to return.

The IRB only considers risks that fit into the "Convention refugee" and "person in need of protection" definitions.
IRCC must consider the best interests of any child under the age of 18 who could be directly affected by the decision on an H&C application. The IRB doesn't need to consider the best interests of any child who could be directly affected by their decision. It only decides whether a claimant fits the definition of a Convention refugee or person in need of protection.
Making an H&C application does not give an applicant the right to stay in Canada until IRCC decides. A refugee claimant can stay in Canada until the IRB decides their claim.
An H&C applicant can get permission to work or study after their application is approved at the first stage.

A refugee claimant who is waiting for the IRB to decide their claim can get permission to study or to work, if they need money to support themselves.

Some claimants must wait until they are accepted or until 180 days after their claim is referred to the IRB.

An H&C applicant must meet all the requirements for permanent residence. Or they must ask for exceptions to any requirements they do not meet. These requirements include health standards and the ability to support themselves financially. If they do not meet all the requirements, or if they have a family member who does not meet the requirements, they may not be able to get permanent resident status. A successful refugee claimant can apply for permanent residence and will not have to meet all of the usual requirements. For example, they do not have to show the ability to support themselves financially and they do not have to meet all the usual health standards. And it does not matter if they have a family member who does not meet all the requirements.
An H&C applicant who is successful at both stages becomes a permanent resident. A permanent resident can lose that status for reasons given in the law. For example, if they commit a crime that is considered serious under immigration law, they could lose their permanent resident status and be forced to leave Canada. A successful refugee claimant gets the status of a protected person and will, in most cases, also become a permanent resident. But if they lose their status as a permanent resident, they might not be forced to leave Canada. This is because they still have the status of a protected person. In most cases the law does not allow a protected person to be sent back to a country where they would be at risk.
A successful H&C applicant becomes a permanent resident. Unlike a protected person, they do not risk losing their permanent resident status only because they travel to or get a passport from their country of nationality. A protected person who becomes a permanent resident could lose their status as a protected person and permanent resident if they voluntarily go back under the protection of their country of nationality. This could happen if they travel to or get a passport from that country. They could then be forced to leave Canada.
An H&C applicant must pay a processing fee to apply. The current fees are:

  • $550 for each adult
  • $150 for each child under the age of 22 included in the application

An H&C applicant who is successful at the first stage will have to pay an additional Right of Permanent Residence Fee. The current fee is $490 for each adult.

There is no fee to make a refugee claim.

A protected person will have to pay a processing fee to apply for permanent residence but does not have to pay a Right of Permanent Residence Fee.