Designated Countries of Origin

Meurrens LawRefugees

From 2011 – 2019 Canada’s refugee system contained a list of Designated Countries of Origin (“DCO“).


Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, received Royal Assent on June 29, 2010.  It introduced sweeping changes to Canadian refugee law, including establishing the DCO regime.  The government estimated that approximately 10% of all asylum claimants in Canada could be subject to expedited processing under the DCO policy.  The government has estimated that designations would result in a 57% decline in the number of claims received from such countries over the 12 months following a designation.

The DCO List

The initial list of DCOs covers 27 countries, 25 of which are in the European Union (edit: see below for a list of additional countries that have been added):

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America

Consequences of Being from a DCO

Refugee claimants from DCOs will continue to be able to claim refugee status in Canada.  However, the Immigration and Refugee Board (“IRB“) will process their claims faster.

While asylum claimants from non-DCOs will receive a hearing within 60 days of their claim being referred to the IRBDCO claimants will receive a hearing within 30 or 45 days depending on where they made their initial claim (i.e., at an inland immigration office or a port of entry).

Unlike non-DCO claimants, DCO claimants will not be able to appeal a negative decision to the Refugee Appeal Division.

All failed DCO refugee claimants may apply for judicial review of a negative IRB decision at the Federal Court, however,  unlike with non-DCO claimants, there will be no automatic stay of removal for DCO claimants during the judicial review process.  Failed claimants will have to apply for a stay of removal at Federal Court.

Unlike with non-DCO claimants, DCO claimants will be ineligible to apply for a work permit until their claim is approved by the IRB or their claim has been in the system for more than 180 days and no decision has been made.

Romania and Bulgaria

It is interesting to note that two European Union countries, Romania and Bulgaria, have not been designated by Canada as being a safe country.

[UPDATE – March 7, 2013]

On February 14, 2013, the following countries were added to the list of Designated Countries of Origin.

  • Mexico
  • Israel (which excludes Gaza and the West Bank)
  • Japan
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Switzerland

[UPDATE – May 31, 2013]

On May 31, 2013, the following countries were added to the list of Designated Countries of Origin.

  • Chile
  • South Korea

[UPDATE – October 24, 2014]

The following countries were just added to the list of Designated Countries of Origin.

  • Romania
  • Andorra
  • Liechtenstein
  • Monaco
  • San Marino.

[UPDATE – November 22, 2015]

We have reproduced below the two memorandums to the Minister, obtained through Access to Information requests, which resulted in the above countries being designated.



The introduction of the DCO regime had an immediate impact on refugee claims, as seen in the chart below.

As the charts below show, one of the impacts of the changes was a dramatic reduction in asylum claims and processing times.

End of DCO Regime

On May 17, 2019 Canada suspended all countries on the designated country of origin list.