Everything You Need To Know About Immigration Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) Hearings

If the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) believes there’s a reason you do not have the right to enter Canada, you may be ordered to appear for an admissibility hearing. Admissibility hearings are held before the Immigration Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The IRB is independent of the CBSA. A member of the Immigration Division will decide if you’re inadmissible. If you’re inadmissible, you’ll be ordered to leave Canada. If you’re in another country, you will not be allowed to enter Canada. However, you may still have options that could allow you to stay or enter.

What happens after you have been ordered to appear for an admissibility hearing?

Before the hearing, the CBSA will send you a package of documents outlining why they believe you’re inadmissible. This package will include documents they want the Immigration Division to consider at your hearing. You’ll receive a notice from the Immigration Division with details about the date and time of your admissibility hearing. This is your Notice to Appear. Read this notice carefully.

All IRB hearings are scheduled as virtual hearings. However, you can request a hybrid or an in-person hearing. If someone is representing you, they should make the request in writing. You may also make the request yourself, either in writing or orally. You can apply to change the date or time of the hearing as well.


Preparing for an admissibility hearing

Interpretation: If you would like to have an interpreter in your own language at the hearing, tell the Immigration Division right away. They can provide an interpreter to translate for you at your hearing. Your Notice to Appear includes contact information and important instructions on interpreters.

Representation at an admissibility hearing: Although you can represent yourself at your hearing, you can also choose to hire counsel. Counsel can be a lawyer or a registered immigration consultant. In Quebec, counsel can also be a notary. You are responsible for paying your counsel.

If you do not have enough money to pay for counsel, you may be able to get free legal help. Some provinces and territories offer free legal aid to people who are eligible. Some community or religious organizations may also be able to help. A friend or family member may also act as counsel if they’re not receiving payment for their help.

If you decide to hire counsel or to have someone else help you, you should arrange this as soon as possible. You can ask the Immigration Division for more time to find counsel, but the Immigration Division may decide you have to proceed without counsel if you haven’t planned for representation in a reasonable amount of time. Your Notice to Appear includes contact information and important instructions on counsel.

Evidence: You may choose to give evidence at your admissibility hearing. Evidence can be documents you provide, or oral testimony you or other witnesses provide at the hearing.

Copies of documents must be provided to the CBSA and the Immigration Division at least 5 days before your hearing and must be in either English or French. The CBSA must also send you a copy of the evidence they want to use at your admissibility hearing.

Witnesses: You may invite witnesses to speak at your admissibility hearing. You must tell both the Immigration Division and the CBSA about any witnesses at least 5 days before the hearing. Your Notice to Appear includes contact information and important instructions on witnesses.

Pre-hearing conference: The Immigration Division may schedule a pre-hearing conference to get additional information and discuss your case.

What happens at an admissibility hearing?

The Immigration Division member is in charge of the hearing. The member will start by introducing everyone and explaining what’s going to happen. If you have requested an interpreter, the member will check that you and the interpreter understand each other. After the introductions, each side will take turns presenting its case to the member. You may be called as a witness and asked questions. The CBSA representative, your own counsel and the member can all ask you questions.

A CBSA representative will explain to the member why the CBSA believes you’re inadmissible to Canada. The CBSA has the “burden of proof”. The CBSA must demonstrate that you’re inadmissible to Canada. You or your counsel will then be asked to respond. If you disagree with the CBSA’s position, you or your counsel can explain why. CBSA will then be allowed to reply to what you or your counsel said. If there are witnesses to give information, the CBSA representative, you, your counsel, or the member may ask them questions.


When will you receive a decision?

After hearing from both sides, the member will make their decision. The member’s decision will be either that the CBSA is correct, and you are inadmissible, or that the CBSA is incorrect, and you are not inadmissible. The member will usually give their decision and reasons at the end of the hearing. If not, the IRB will send you a copy of the decision and the reasons by mail after the hearing.

What happens once the member decides whether you are inadmissible or not?

If the member decides that you are not inadmissible, you will receive a favorable decision. The CBSA may appeal this decision to a separate division of the IRB, the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD). If the CBSA does this, you will be informed and you will be able to participate in the IAD hearing.

If the member decides that you are inadmissible, you will receive a removal order. There are 3 types of removal orders:

  • Departure Orders
  • Exclusion Orders
  • Deportation Orders

A removal order says that you must leave Canada, but you may still have other options that would allow you to stay. You may have the right to appeal to the IAD, or you can file an application at the Federal Court challenging the Immigration Division’s decision. You may wish to get legal advice about how to do this from entities such as Arrivals Canada Immigration Consultancy, and you must file either application quickly.

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