Settlement Process

Government Assisted Refugees (GARS)

“Resettlement” is the term used by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to describe the legal process of bringing a refugee to Canada to live as a permanent resident. There are three categories for refugees in Canada who are resettled from overseas (GARS) and gain permanent residency status on arrival:

  1. Convention Refugee Abroad – refugees referred by the UNHCR or private organization who meet the definition of a UNHCR Convention Refugee
  2. Country of Asylum – refugees referred by the UNHCR or private organization who do not meet the UNHCR Convention Refugee definition but qualify as a Persons in Need of Protection
  3. Source Country – refugees referred by private organization or direct application. These applications are limited to individuals from countries appearing on a regulated schedule maintained by the CIC of source countries for refugees.

A Canadian Visa Officer assesses each claim for refugee status through an interview process that occurs abroad for refugees and in Canada for refugee claimants. The applicant must also pass a medical examination, a criminal screen, and a security check.

Refugee Claimant Process

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 2010


Refugee claimants are generally successful if they are found to fall under the definition of either a Convention Refugee or Persons In Need of Protection.

Definition of Terms:

CIC – Citizenship and Immigration Canada
IFHP – Interim Federal Health Program
IRB – Immigration and Refugee Board
CBSA – Canada Border Services Agency
PIF – Personal Health Information Form
RPD – Refugee Protection Division

Medical examinations

  • Examinations occur abroad for refugees and in Canada for refugee claimants by medical practitioners designated by the CIC. Designated Medical Practitioners follow the DMP Handbook created by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
  • The IMM 1017 EDE-EFE form must be completed.

Unlike immigrants, refugees are ‘excessive demand exempt’, which means they will not be refused entry to Canada based on excessive medical needs.

The medical examination includes:

  • A full medical history including mental health history
  • A full physical examination
  • A urinalysis if more than five years of age
  • An HIV test with pre and post test counselling if greater than fifteen years of age or if there are known HIV risk factors
  • A syphilis (VDRL) test if greater than eleven years, to be confirmed by FTS-ABS if the screening test is positive
  • A chest x-ray for tuberculosis (TB) if greater than eleven years old or known risk factors for TB or if the individual is HIV positive

If patient tests positive for TB or syphilis, they must complete a course of treatment before resettlement. There are no other medical conditions that make a refugee ineligible for resettlement.

The medical exam may be done up to a year in advance of arrival in Canada in some cases. Therefore the results are not always up-to-date. Sometimes the IME results arrive with the patient, but more often they do not.

Resettlement Assistance Program

All GARS who are being settled in British Columbia spend at least one week at Welcome House in downtown Vancouver. Welcome House is a facility operated by Immigration Services Society of British Columbia which provides temporary accommodations and settlement services for GARS.

The resettlement assistance program (RAP) is funded by the Government of Canada to Convention Refugees Abroad and members of the Source Country Class, and in some instances, members of the Country of Asylum Class who have been identified as Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS) cases, admitted to Canada as government-assisted refugees. These funds are given to help pay for

  • meeting the refugee at the airport or port of entry;
  • temporary accommodation;
  • help in finding permanent accommodation;
  • basic household items; and
  • general orientation to life in Canada.

This money is also used to provide the refugee with income support for up to one year or until that person becomes self-sufficient, whichever comes first.

This support is delivered by CIC-supported non-governmental agencies. Welcome House in Vancouver is an example of one of these service providers. A list of service provider organizations for Resettlement Assistance Programs in each province is available.

A video with more information about the Resettlement Assistance Program created for GARS is available here.