Recent changes to the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between Canada and the United States have important implications for individuals seeking asylum in Canada. On May 4, 2023, the Government of Canada published updated instructions regarding the STCA, which include an Additional Protocol (AP) that extends the agreement to cover the entire land border between the two countries. In this blog post, we will explore the changes brought about by the Additional Protocol and discuss how these amendments impact asylum seekers and the overall immigration process.
Understanding the Additional Protocol
The Additional Protocol, effective March 25, 2023, expands the application of the STCA to include individuals who submit an asylum claim when entering Canada between ports of entry, as well as those who submit a refugee claim inland following an irregular entry. Previously, the STCA applied only to individuals who made their claims at official ports of entry.
The purpose of the Additional Protocol is to enhance the management of refugee claims along the entire Canada-U.S. border, aiming to maintain the integrity of the immigration systems in both countries. By expanding the STCA's scope, the Canadian government intends to ensure that asylum seekers apply for protection in the first safe country they arrive in, whether it be Canada or the United States.
Implications for Asylum Seekers
The Additional Protocol's implementation has several implications for asylum seekers trying to enter Canada from the United States:
1. Increased importance of applying for asylum in the first safe country : With the STCA now applying to the entire land border, individuals are further encouraged to seek asylum in the first safe country they arrive in. This means that if a person passes through the United States before entering Canada, they should apply for asylum in the United States first. Failure to do so may result in their ineligibility to seek asylum in Canada.
2. Reduced opportunities for irregular entry : The expansion of the STCA to include inland refugee claims and those submitted between ports of entry aims to discourage irregular entry into Canada. Asylum seekers who enter Canada irregularly will now be subject to the STCA, meaning they may be ineligible to make a refugee claim in Canada if they have already entered the United States.
3. Continued applicability of STCA exceptions: The existing exceptions to the STCA still apply, even with the implementation of the Additional Protocol. These exceptions include having family members in Canada, being an unaccompanied minor, holding a valid Canadian visa or permit, and facing the risk of the death penalty in the United States or a third country. Asylum seekers who meet any of these exceptions may still be eligible to apply for refugee protection in Canada, regardless of their entry method.
Navigating the Changes
Asylum seekers looking to enter Canada must be aware of the updated STCA rules and consider the implications of the Additional Protocol on their claims. It is essential to understand the importance of applying for asylum in the first safe country they arrive in and the potential consequences of not doing so. If you believe you may qualify for an exception to the STCA, consult Mesidor Canadian Immigration Services to help you navigate the complex legal process. We can provide valuable guidance and support in determining your eligibility and preparing your application.
For those who are already in Canada and seeking asylum, it is essential to be well-prepared for your refugee hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). This hearing will determine whether you are granted protected person status in Canada. Engaging the services of a knowledgeable immigration expert can greatly assist in preparing your case and gathering the necessary evidence to support your claim for refugee protection.
The recent update to the Safe Third Country Agreement, including the implementation of the Additional Protocol, has significant implications for individuals seeking asylum in Canada. By extending the scope of the STCA to the entire land border, the Canadian government aims to maintain the integrity of both countries' immigration systems and ensure that asylum seekers apply for protection in the first safe country they arrive in. Navigating these changes can be challenging, but with proper understanding, guidance, and preparation, you can effectively pursue the life and security you seek in Canada.