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Refugee System in Canada

Discuss about the American and Canadian Immigration laws.

Refugees are referred to people who have either left or fled from their own countries for the fear of being persecuted on the grounds of their gender, race, opinion or beliefs. They have been subjected to such drastic and inhuman experiences that they are unable to return home for the fear of being persecuted in the same manner (Hollifield, Martin & Orrenius, 2014). However, there is a difference between an immigrant and a refugee where the former decides to settle in some country other his/her own country permanently, and the latter is forced to leave to his/her own country for the fear of being subjected to inhuman treatment.

The refugee system in Canada is mainly governed by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and comprises the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program for refugees seeking protection from outside the country and the in-Canada Asylum Program for those refugees who claims protection from within Canada (Joppke & Morawska, 2014). Canada is a signatory to the UN 1951 Convention with respect to the Status of Refugees and the Immigration and Refugees Protection Act implements the Convention. The Refugee Settlement Program, which is regulated by the Citizenship and Immigration Canada that deals with the processing of the applications and resettlement assistance (Czaika & De Haas, 2013).

The USA is also a party to the UN Convention 1951 relating to status of the refugees and the refugees laws are regulated by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Population, refugees and Migration (PRM) in the Department of State and the offices within the Department of Homeland Security (DHM) jointly govern the Refugee Admissions Program. The U.S. Citizenship ad Immigration Services (USCIS) within the DHS conducts the refugee interviews and determines whether an individual is eligible to be granted a refugee status in the USA (Hollifield, Martin & Orrenius, 2014).

  • How the immigration laws for the refugees have emerged in Canada and the United States?
  • What are the conditions that must be satisfied to become eligible to be granted a refugee status in both the countries?
  • What are conditions that disqualify the claimants from acquiring a refugee status in both the countries?
  • Are there any pros and cons of the immigration laws for refugees in Canada and the USA?
  • What are differences in the immigration laws for refugees between both the countries?
  • Is there any common agreement between the two countries with respect to such immigration laws for the refugees among both the countries?

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act regulates the refugee system in Canada and consists of the Humanitarian Resettlement Program and In-Canada Asylum Program. The Humanitarian Resettlement Program is for those refugees who come from outside the country seeking for protection. The In-Canada Asylum Program is for persons who succeed to make their claims from inside the country. The government assisted refugee program supports majority of refugee allocations where either the Province of Quebec or the Canadian Government provides initial assistance to the refugees to resettle in the country (Weissbrodt, Danielson & Myers, 2017).

Refugee System in the USA

Additionally, Canada permits private individuals and organizations to sponsor individuals who fulfill the eligibility and admissibility criteria as stipulated under the Canadian law. Canada identifies the refugees to enable them to resettle in the country in association with the United Nations Refugee Agency UNHCR. The refugee screening process of the country is said to be thorough, multi-staged and meticulous, including medical, criminal and security screening procedures.

The refugee program stipulates the criteria to become eligible for seeking protection in Canada. The person must have a fear of persecution, which is well established, or there is sufficient evidence about such fear of persecution. Such person must establish that there is a risk of being subjected to cruel, unusual punishment, or torture, in the home countries of the persons seeking protection (Steil & Vasi, 2014). People who seek protection from the Canadian government may be disqualified if it is established that such person has been subjected to conviction for commission serious criminal offense. Further, if it is established that such person has made previous claims, which were not accepted by the Canadian Government.


Under the Resettlement Assistance Program, the Canadian Government or Province of Quebec assists the refugees with income support and other essential services after they are eligible to settle in the country. The refugees are provided with income support for one year until they become capable to support themselves and fulfill their necessities. In the event of private organizations and sponsors, they must provide emotional and financial support to the refugees that they sponsor for the sponsorship period or until the refugee becomes capable to support themselves. The Blended visa office-referred refugees are entitled to six-months of Resettlement Assistance Program income support whereas the private sponsors provide the sponsored refugees with six months of financial support and a year of emotional and social support as well (Bucerius & Tonry, 2014).

The Urgent Protection Program (UPP) was established to respond the urgent requests to provide assistance to the government-assisted refugees who would otherwise have a fear of being persecuted, expelled or facing direct threats to their lives.  After the applicant for refugee status is a UNHCR referral, the screening process involves identification of the legitimate refugees who are obligated to undergo subsequent and initial interviews questioning about their current or past military activities or associations. This process may include antifraud measures, biometric checks and other measures.

The USA passed its very first official refugee legislation for addressing the plight of displaced Europeans post the World War II. The United States is the only country that resettles more refugees than any other country (Roberts, 2015). Subsequent to the Vietnam War and the experience of the country while resettling the Indochinese refugees, Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980 that had incorporated the definition into the US noopener law that has laid the foundation for the Refugee Admissions program (USRAP) in the country.

Eligibility Criteria for Seeking Protection

According to the definition stipulated under section 101 (a) (42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), any person who is unwilling or unable to return to his/her home country for fear of persecution on the grounds of race, membership in any specific social group, religion, origin or national. The Department of Homeland Security has the authority to decide whether a person seeking for protection as a refugee can be granted the status of a refugee in the country.  Under the US Law, a refugee must have a fear of persecution on five essential grounds: political opinion, religions, nationality, race and membership in any particular group. However, this is the eligibility criteria for people who seek for refugee status outside or before entering into the country. People who seek admission after entering into the country without any status or with a different status shall be treated as an asylee and not a refugee. Further, a refugee must be considered as admissible to the US and not be firmly resettled in a third country.

Every year, the US resettles a restricted number of refugees who are selected to be eligible for a USCIS interview for resettling in the US. The refugees may become eligible for a USCIS interview if the US Embassy or UNHCR or any non-governmental organization refers such refugees to the country for resettlement (Roberts, 2015). The refugees must be outside their home countries to become eligible for the US Refugee Program. An applicant may become disqualified on the grounds of health, criminal conduct, criminal conviction record, or any other security-related grounds. However, ineligibility for the US Refugee Program does not necessarily prohibit the persons seeking protection from becoming eligible to resettlement in other countries or from the protection extended by the UNHCR.

Refugees are subjected to the highest level of security process in the United States of America. Once the refugee applications are granted, the refugees and their family undergo medical examination for the identification of any form diseases that may affect public health. The refugees are prohibited from travelling across the country unless they have undertaken the medical exam and have cleared those (Roberts, 2015). The State Department works with nine domestic non-profitable organizations for the purpose resettling the refugees. The USRAP has no requirements for the refugees to have any specific educational background or competency in English language. The program merely focuses on providing long lasting solutions to meet the most vulnerable refugees.

Resettlement Assistance Program


While Canada and USA both are considered as top immigrant-inflow lists in either per-capita or absolute terms. Unlike several countries, these two bordering countries do not require citizens to carry official photo identification, which makes the loves of the undocumented immigrants easier apart from the liberal immigration policies of both the counties. However, Canada is laze around in the public lime light; USA on the other hand, is not as popular as Canada in terms of immigration.

The immigration policies of the United States have been subjected to several controversies and fright due to threats pertaining to religious rights, linguistic sovereignty and legal hindrances to family unity. However, the country should be appreciated where it deserves. It is equally immigrant-friendly as Canada (Weissbrodt, Danielson & Myers, 2017). Amidst the zero-game of immigration, where immigration becomes equal to global emigration, the United States welcomes more immigrants than any other countries. The key differences between the two countries with respect to their individual immigration laws and policies are explained as below.

Firstly, America permits immigrants to enter into the country based on the reunification of family while the Canadian government gives more emphasis on economic based immigration applications, such as investor applications or skilled worker applications, etc. Secondly, the US has an additional visa lottery program unlike the Canadian government. The significance of the lottery program lies in the fact that it does not provide preference based on educational or economic qualifications.

Canadian government has been praised for welcoming immigrants who were banned from entering into the United States. Canada claims that it would accept immigrants irrespective of their faith or religion. However, the country does not accept immigrant with a disability and are not permitted to enter into the country on the ground that the medical care of the person shall exhaust or deplete the national resources of the country. There is a difference between the opinion of both the countries with respect to immigration (Roberts, 2015).

Thirdly, in the opinion of Roberts (2015), Canadians believe in the positive economic benefits of immigration to the extent that towns that are under economic duress are more interested in promoting immigration as they believe that immigrations shall create jobs. Fourthly, Canada emphasizes on multiculturalism unlike the United States, which marks the normative distinction between the two countries. However, in the United States, immigration is not promoted on the ground that it adds social framework to the country. In regards to the normative argument, it has a humanitarian aspect, which signifies that America considers identity as a right and not as a value.

Urgent Protection Program

Fifthly, the United States should be more liberal in accepting high-skilled immigrants like Canada where majority of the immigrants to Canada are authorized under a ‘points’ system that is determined based on their employment potential and credentials. Majority of the Canadian immigrants have bachelor degrees and might have a higher unemployment rate than the natives of the country.


Lastly, Steil (2014) states that while the United States provide benefits by accepting undocumented immigrants, it acquires an immigrant labor force without making any arrangements for accommodating the populace. Unlike the Canadian government, it can be considered as the quality of the United States ability to encourage integration by providing language training or promoting any other settlement programs.

Immigration is an intricate process and is geopolitical, discretionary and emotional in practice. However, when comparison is made between Canada and the United States with respect to the preaching or teachings provided to immigrants, the preaching to immigrants in the United States is advanced and better than those provided to the immigrants in Canada.

Both the USA and Canada have been found on immigration as a result of which the values, social fabric and virtues of both the nations have been weaving persistent flow of immigrants (Steil & Vasi, 2014). Hence, immigrating to either of these countries is appropriate as these countries have a long history of eventually accepting immigrants. On the other hand, it is not as if every immigrant have been received smoothly in these nations. As the nations have a long history of immigration, they have an equally long history of often being less than receptive towards immigrants when they initially arrive in both the nations either on grounds of faith (USA) or on grounds of disability (Canada).

Further, another advantage of immigration in either of the nations is economic opportunity. As discussed above, majority of the immigrants in Canada are educated and have greater employment rate as compared to the native born. Such immigrants may assist the host country in enhancing its economic opportunity and vice versa.  However, US and Canada remain to be two of the most vivacious economies in the world, hence, it must be understood that, immigration may not always result in an economic opportunity for the country as well as for the immigrants (Steil & Vasi, 2014).

The government of Canada and the government of the United States have identified the significance of new approach to migration that considers the global patterns of both regular and irregular migration and the growing advanced methods of identifying abuse and fraud of their respective immigration laws. The governments of both the countries have entered into the agreement with each other for the Sharing of Visa and Immigration Information. The countries have considered ensuring safety, security and health of its respective population and promoting international justice.

US Refugee Program

The Safe Third Country Agreement between the United States and Canada is part of the US-Canada Smart Border Action Plan, which was signed on December 5, 2002 and was enforced on December 29, 2004. The agreement enables the government of both the countries to manage the access to the refugee system of the respective countries for those people who crosses the US-Canada land border. This Agreement requires the refugee claimants to seek refugee protection in the first safe country in which they arrive, unless such refugees fall into an exception to the Agreement. The agreements between these two countries aim at establishing a method to exchange information in such a manner that respects civil liberties, privacy and the human rights and to be committed to improving their respective shared vision.

Hollifield, J., Martin, P., & Orrenius, P. (2014). Controlling immigration: A global perspective. Stanford University Press.

This book has assisted in providing comparative assessment of the efforts in selecting countries like USA and Canada with respect to the immigration laws and policies dealt with by the countries. It talks about the long history of the nations with respect to their immigrations policies and outcomes.

Czaika, M., & De Haas, H. (2013). The effectiveness of immigration policies. Population and Development Review, 39(3), 487-508.

This article has provided relevant information regarding the importance of immigration policies and its impact on the population of the host countries such as USA and Canada.

Weissbrodt, D., Danielson, L., & Myers, H. (2017). Immigration law and procedure in a nutshell. West Academic.

This Book has provided an overview of the regulations, procedure, administrative process and ethical principles related to immigration law and practice.

Steil, J. P., & Vasi, I. B. (2014). The new immigration contestation: Social movements and local immigration policy making in the United States, 2000–2011. American Journal of Sociology, 119(4), 1104-1155.

This article has assisted in providing information about the immigration policy in the United States and provided adequate information regarding the impact of the political process and theories of social movements on the outcomes of such immigration policies.

Bucerius, S. M., & Tonry, M. H. (Eds.). (2014). The Oxford handbook of ethnicity, crime, and immigration. Oxford Handbooks.

This book has provided information about the grounds based on which refugee status is often not granted by countries including USA and Canada. Such grounds include, crime related activities, disorders which may affect the security and safety of the population of the countries.

Roberts, B. (2015). Whence They Came: Deportation from Canada 1900-1935 (p. 264). University of Ottawa Press/Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa.

This book talks about long-history of immigration policy in Canada where the immigrant group that did not qualify the immigration laws and policies of the country were not granted permission to enter into the country.

https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/database/index.shtml

This is UN population division: Department of Economic and Social affairs published by Migration Policy Institute where it states that US welcomes more immigrants than any other country by a landslide.

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