Getting legal help

Refugee and immigration legal issues

You may qualify for a legal aid certificate if you are a refugee claimant who is financially eligible, and you need a lawyer to represent you in one of these situations:

  • You want to claim refugee status before the Immigration and Refugee Board.You will need to first complete a Basis of Claim form and send it to us. You can take your certificate to one of three Refugee Law Offices, to an LAO employee or to a lawyer of your choice.

  • You want to appeal your case to the federal court because the Immigration and Refugee Board has turned you down. You can only get a certificate for your appeal if you've had a Refugee Appeal Division merit assessment that says your case has merit.

  • Your application for refugee status has been turned down, and your lawyer says you can file an injunction motion (stay of removal) to stay in the country. This is an emergency measure, and you can only take it if you have been turned down as a refugee claimant, have received a valid and enforceable deportation order, and are on the brink of removal from Canada.

  • You are at risk of losing your status as a Convention refugee or are in need of protection. This means the Immigration and Refugee Board has sent you a cessation order saying that you do not need refugee protection any longer, or tells you, in a vacation order, that you have provided untrue information or left out important information.

  • You can make a Humanitarian and Compassionate (H & C) application.Normally, you aren't allowed to submit an H & C application for a year after you've made a refugee claim. In some cases, however, it makes sense to start with an H & C application, rather than file a refugee claim first.

  • You are experiencing domestic violence.

  • It is in the best interest of your non-citizen children to remain in Canada.

  • You are facing serious human rights violations beyond the scope of refugee protection.

  • You are a person with mental health or addiction issues.

An LAO representative will help you in the language of your choice (through an interpreter if necessary). If you are a refugee claimant and would like further information on how LAO may be able to help you, visit our "Services for refugee claimants” section. For more information on how LAO may help with your immigration matter, visit our “Immigration services” section.

If we cannot help you because we do not provide assistance for your matter, you may be able to get help at your local community legal clinic or Student Legal Aid Service Society.

What LAO does NOT do

LAO does not help people:

  • obtain permanent resident status (except on humanitarian and compassionate grounds) or checking the status of applications with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
  • prepare sponsorship applications
  • renew temporary resident permits or student visas
  • resolve problems in getting Ontario Health Insurance Plan coverage.

If you qualify for legal aid but have no lawyer

If you are eligible for legal aid but do not have a lawyer, you can choose to have either a private bar or LAO staff lawyer represent you.

The government charges application fees for refugee matters

Even if you are a refugee claimant eligible for legal aid and even if you have a legal aid certificate, you still have to pay Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada application and filing fees for your refugee and immigration matters.

Go to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's fee list.