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What is a refugee status document?

What is a refugee status document and who can issue it ? 

The refugee status document is proof that a person has been officially recognized as a refugee in their country of asylum (the country where the refugee is currently living). It can be issued by the country of asylum or by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), depending on each country’s regulations. 

A person is recognized as a refugee following a refugee status determination process conducted either by the country of asylum or the UNHCR. This process usually consists of one or of several interviews and a review of all relevant documents. The purpose of this process is to determine whether an individual conforms to the national or international definition of a refugee. The international accepted definition of a refugee is provided by the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in article 1A2. This article defines a refugee as a person who “owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”.

Keep in mind : being registered with the UNHCR or as an asylum seeker by a foreign country does not mean that a refugee status has been determined. 

When it comes to private sponsorship of refugees, who needs a refugee status document, and who does not? 

It is mandatory to provide a refugee status document in order to be sponsored by a Group of Five or a Community Sponsor. The refugee status document must be added to the sponsorship application submitted to the Resettlement Operations Center in Ottawa (ROC-O). Only the principal applicant is required to provide this document. Spouses, common law partners and children under 22 do not need to have refugee status and refugee status documents. 

Having a refugee status document is not a requirement for sponsorship through Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs), nor for BVOR cases. Indeed, BVOR cases have already been referred to Canada by the UNHCR.