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How does the government enforce Canadian immigration laws?

Immigration laws are mainly enforced by 2 federal government departments:

  • Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) - CIC is responsible for Canadian immigration and citizenship. Get information on CIC policy, programs and services, application kits, and more.
  • Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) - Responsible for border services (port-of-entry services), customs and enforcement of some immigration laws in Canada. For example, CBSA officers work at borders and ports of entry, and handle arrests, detentions and removals.

These departments also work with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Enforcement measures are necessary to protect Canadian society from people who may pose a threat to public health, safety, order or national security. They may be applied to anyone who:

  • Is not a Canadian citizen or a registered Indian under the Indian Act.
  • Has breached any part of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), Canada's immigration law.

Enforcement activities can take place:

  • Outside of Canada
  • At ports of entry to Canada
  • Inside Canada

If you are outside of Canada and want to immigrate to Canada you must apply for a visa before coming to Canada. Many visitors must apply for visas before coming to Canada. If you are inadmissible, you will not be granted a visa. This helps to monitor and control the movement of people to Canada.

Canada also works with other countries, international organizations and airlines to share information and expertise on illegal migration.

At ports of entry, border officers can refuse to allow inadmissible people into Canada. They can also seize false travel documents and search people they suspect of hiding their identity or doing other illegal activities.

Inside Canada, enforcement activities include investigation and inquiries, arrest and detention, and removals.

Investigation and Admissibility Hearings

CIC and CBSA may conduct investigations if they believe you may have violated Canada’s immigration laws, also called the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).

If there is enough evidence of a breach of the law, officers may direct you to appear at an admissibility hearing. An admissibility hearing is like a court hearing.

The admissibility hearing is held in front of a member of the Immigration Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

Arrests and Detention

If CIC and CBSA believe that you will not appear at future immigration proceedings or are a potential danger to the public, an officer may arrest you. This can happen when you arrive to Canada, within Canada or at an immigration inquiry

Following an arrest, an officer can place you in detention. You may be held at a local jail, correctional facility or at an immigration detention centre. If you are arrested or put in detention, officers must tell you about your rights, such as your right to a lawyer. Even before you get arrested, if you are asked questions that seem more than regular questions, the officer must tell you about your right to speak to a lawyer.

Removal Orders

There are different reasons why someone can be considered inadmissible to Canada.

Examples of reasons for inadmissibility are:

  • criminality,
  • health grounds,
  • misrepresentation or overstaying a visa

For certain serious offences, an adjudicator or senior immigration officer may issue a removal order. A removal order means that you must leave the country according to specific instructions.

There are different types of removal orders, including:

  • a departure order,
  • a deportation order; and
  • an exclusion order.

Appeals of Removal Orders

In some cases, you can appeal a removal order. All appeals are heard by the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). The Federal Court of Canada Trial Division may judicially review the IAD's ruling. This means that they review the legal procedures used in the case. However, they do not review the facts of the case.

Where to Get Help

Immigration enforcement is complex and serious. If you or someone you know is under investigation, arrested, detained or has a removal order, try to get legal help. Go to a community legal clinic or a settlement agency for help. To find help in your area, go to Services Near Me.

For More Information

  • Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) - CIC is a federal department responsible for Canadian immigration and citizenship. The website contains detailed information on CIC policy, programs and services. It also has application kits, publications and links to related websites.
  • Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) - CBSA is responsible for border services (port-of-entry services), customs and enforcement of some immigration laws in Canada.
  • Appeals - CBSA has created a fact sheet on appealing removal orders.
  • Enforcement and Intelligence Initiatives - General information about how the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) enforces the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
  • Peace Bonds & Restraining Orders - This guide explains the criteria for getting a peace bond or a restraining order and the differences between them. From Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick (PLEIS-NB).
Last Updated: November 2, 2011
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