Overview of PRRA Changes

The purpose of this blog post is to provide an overview of the changes to Pre-Removal Risk Assessments (“PRRAs“) resulting from Bill C-31 which are now in effect.  A PRRA is a paper application in which individuals can submit that they would be at risk of persecution, risk to life, or risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if returned to their countries of origin.  For most applicants, a positive determination results in the granting of refugee protection and the opportunity to apply for permanent residence as a protected person.  Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, introduced several restrictions on the ability of people to apply for PRRA.

One Year Bar

A person may not apply for a PRRA if less than 12 months have passed since the Immigration and Refugee Board (“IRB“) rejected their refugee claim, or determined the claim to be abandoned or withdrawn.

A person may also no longer apply for a PRRA if less than 12 months have passed since Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC“) rejected the individuals previous PRRA application, or determined it to be withdrawn or abandoned.

The above bars apply retroactively to PRRAs currently being processed.

Applicants from certain countries are exempted from the one year bar.  These countries include the Central African Republic, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria.  Nationals from these countries are exempt from the 12-month bar only if their IRB or PRRA decision (rejected, abandoned or withdrawn) was rendered between August 15, 2011 and August 14, 2012.  There are no exemptions to the 12-month bar for cases decided by the IRB or CIC from August 15, 2012, onward.

Designated Countries Of Origin

Rejected refugee claimants from a Designated Country of Origin are not eligible to apply for PRRA for 36 months after the date of their final decision at the IRB.  This change applies only to PRRAs submitted after December 15, 2012.

Vacation of a Refugee Claim, Articles E and F

The above 12 and 36 month PRRA bars do not apply to individuals whose refugee claim has been vacated or was rejected on the basis of section E or F of Article 1 of the Refugee Convention.

(A refugee claim may be vacated if the IRB, on an application by the government, determines that a positive refugee decision was obtained as a result of directly or indirectly misrepresenting or withholding material facts.  Article 1E provides that an individual cannot obtain refugee status if they have taken residency in a third country and have the rights and obligations which are attached to the possession of nationality of that country.  Article 1F provides that an individual cannot be a refugee if the person has committed a serious non-political crime outside of the country in which the person is claiming refugee status.)

Consequently, such individuals will be able to make an application for a PRRA and will not be subject to the 12- or 36-month bar.

Serious Criminality and PRRA

PRRA applicants who have been determined to be inadmissible to Canada on grounds of serious criminality whose applications are approved will not receive protected person status.

Previously, protected person status would only be denied if the individual was punished in Canada by a term of imprisonment of at least two years.  Now, PRRA applicants who are inadmissible due to an in-Canada conviction punishable by at least 10 years imprisonment will not receive protected person status.  Instead, their removal order will simply be stayed.

PRRA applicants who are inadmissible due to a conviction outside Canada for an offence that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an offence punishable by at least 10 years imprisonment will continue to receive only a stay of removal if the PRRA is approved.

In each of the above cases the risk factors that applicants may claim in a PRRA have been broadened.