People in Canada as refugees can travel outside Canada, but until they become Canadian citizens, they need to be aware of several considerations. This applies to resettled refugees (whether privately sponsored or Government-Assisted) who mostly receive permanent residence status as soon as they arrive in Canada. It also applies to people who are determined to be refugees (Protected Persons) within Canada, either by the Immigration and Refugee Board, or through a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment.
Refugee Travel Document
It is important that a person who has come to Canada through a refugee resettlement program or has been recognized in Canada as a refugee no longer use a passport from their home country because it could cause their status to be revoked through cessation (see below).
Once refugees meet the necessary requirements, they can apply for Canadian citizenship and, once they are citizens, they can travel with a Canadian passport. However, in the meantime, whether they have permanent residence or not, they need to apply to the Government of Canada for a Refugee Travel Document in order to travel outside Canada.
A Refugee Travel Document can be used as a passport to travel to other countries (but not to the person's country of origin). However, it is not the same as having a Canadian passport. Some countries which allow Canadians to enter visa-free require a visa from a person travelling with a Refugee Travel Document. It is the person’s responsibility to contact the consulate or embassy of the country where they would like to travel to check any visa requirements.
The processing time for the travel document can vary so it is a good idea to wait to make firm travel plans (such as buying an airplane ticket) until the document has been received - and any necessary visas obtained.
To apply for a Refugee Travel Document, fill out the application under ‘Travel document applications for stateless and protected persons in Canada’. See here for more information.
Loss of refugee status (cessation)
Canada offers protection to refugees because they have shown that they are in danger in their home country. However, Canadian government has the right to remove someone’s refugee status if it believes that the person accepted the protection of their home country (known as “re-availment”) after obtaining refugee status in Canada.
This could happen if a person:
- Travels to their home country (even for a short visit)
- Travels using the passport of their home country
- Applies for a new passport from their home country
If a person has done one of the above-mentioned things, it may not automatically be a problem. It is up to the Canada Border Services Agency to decide which cases to pursue. If they pursue the case, and the person loses their refugee status, they may also automatically lose their permanent residence (if they have it).
As this is a very serious issue, it is important to understand which actions to avoid. For more information please see the CCR's resource: Basic Information about Cessation.
Re-entry into Canada with a permanent resident card
For people who have permanent residence, a permanent resident card is required to return to Canada. See here for more information.
Check to make sure that your permanent resident card will not expire while you are on your trip. It is possible to get a Permanent resident travel document while you are overseas, but it can be a hassle.