Recent reports in Canadian media (La Presse and Toronto Star) about increased number of Americans being refused entry into Canada may come as a surprise in light of the media focus on the Trump-led anti-immigration stance. The 31% increase in refusal of Americans into Canada in 2016 compared to 2015 is typically the result of previous immigration violations and or past criminal activity, records of which are more accessible now to border guards than in the past. Although such individuals facing inadmissibility can request special waivers, called temporary resident permits to enter, the discretion is left up to the immigration officer to determine whether there ae justifiable reasons for entry even on a limited basis.
What is more interesting is the refusal by Canada of potential refugee claimants. Contrary to the general thought that Canada automatically accepts any refugee appearing at the border, it is important to note that Canada is part of a safe third country agreement which can actually result in refusal of the claimant.
The Safe Third Country Agreement is an agreement between the US and Canada and refugee claimants who arrive at a port of entry are required by that agreement to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in, unless they qualify for an exception to the agreement. The two countries signed the Agreement on December 5, 2002 and it came into effect on December 29, 2004.
Because of this agreement, if a person makes a refugee claim at a border crossing, the person is subject to this agreement and cannot make a claim in Canada. The consequences of making a claim based on this Safe Third Country Agreement means that the person can be returned to the United States on the same date and can be barred from making any future entry into Canada for over 12 months and is stopped from making another refugee claim in Canada. If potential refugee claimants are considering coming from the States and simply appearing at the port of entry, it is important to know that such entry will result in a substantial likelihood of being returned to the States.
The Safe Third Country Agreement does not apply to people who make a refugee claim inside Canada after entering from the United States. That is the reason many have attempted illegal crossings. But even such claims are not assured. If a person has spent some time already in the United States and could have made a refugee claim, but has not done so, then such applications are dealt with on a much faster an expedited basis. Claimants entering from the US should be aware of the following factors will be considered and may have a negative impact on any application made – the length of residency in the USA without making an asylum claim, delay in making an asylum claim in Canada, abandoning of a US asylum claim, history of a refused asylum claim or even having a successful asylum claim in the US.