Who is a designated foreign national in Canada?

Designated Foreign Nationals in CanadaA large group of people irregularly cross the border. RCMP reports the incident to the border authorities. CBSA investigates and gets suspicious. It seems a gang has smuggled these people to Canada. The Minister of Public Safety, who is also the head of the CBSA, intervenes. The Minister identifies the group as designated foreign nationals (DFN). Of course, this is not mere name-calling. What does that entail, then? Let’s find out!

In this article:

Human smuggling versus human trafficking

Before explaining the concept of a designated foreign national, let’s define two terms.

  • Human smuggling means a person willingly hires another entity to take them to Canada irregularly. Therefore, smuggled persons are not victims but rather part of the act. They may do so desperately to escape a dangerous condition. Regardless, their entry into Canada is deliberate.
  • Human trafficking happens without the consent of the victim. Of course, sometimes the victim knows they are entering Canada without proper documentation, but they are not aware of the real purpose of the perpetrators.

I brought these definitions up to give you a sense of what comes next. Nonetheless, I’m not here to judge the Immigration Act.

Who is a designated foreign national (DFN)?

Sometimes a large group of people enter Canada irregularly. The Minister of Public Safety reviews such irregular activities. The Minister may realize those people are part of a human smuggling scheme. Therefore, they may identify those individuals as designated foreign nationals. Sometimes, the designation happens when the group is massive, and an effective and timely examination is impossible. In other words, immigration officers cannot properly vet them for inadmissibility issues. Regardless of the reason, such designation has significant consequences for those individuals.

Note to practitioners: See A20.1!

Consequences of being a designated foreign national

Here is a quick list of some potential restrictions and problems a designated foreign national faces:

(1) Regular PR applications restrictions for DFNs

  • IRCC will put their permanent resident application on hold for five years after their refugee claim or protection claim decision. However, if the immigration is because of another program, the five-year hold-off begins when they become a DFN.
  • If they already have an open PR application, IRCC will put it on hold for five years from the day,
    • they received a final decision on their refugee claim,
    • authorities approved their request for protection, or
    • in other situations from the day they became a DFN.
  • Officers may impose conditions on designated foreign nationals. Consequently, IRCC may refuse to consider their PR application if they don’t comply.
  • IRCC officers may even refuse to consider PR applications for DFNs if they apply in less than 12 months from the end of the designated period.

Note to practitioners: See A20.2!

(2) Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) for designated foreign nationals

  • Designated foreign nationals may not request a TRP unless they meet at least one of the following conditions:
    • Five years have passed since a decision on their refugee or protection application.
    • At least five years have passed since their designation. Of course, this condition only applies to those who do not file for protection or refugee status.
  • If they already have an open TRP application, IRCC puts them on hold until they meet the conditions I mentioned in the previous bullet point.
  • Officers may refuse to consider their TRP application if the DFN has not obeyed the imposed conditions. However, sometimes they may have an acceptable excuse.
  • IRCC officers may refuse to consider their TRP application if they submit it in less than 12 months from the end of the designated period.

Note to practitioners: See A24(5)!

(3) Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) considerations for DFNs

  • Designated foreign nationals may only file for H&C if at least one of the following has occurred:
    • At least five years have passed since deciding on their refugee or protection application.
    • At least five years have passed since their designation. Of course, this condition only applies to those who do not file for protection or refugee status.
  • If they already have an open PR application under H&C, IRCC will put it on hold for five years from the day,
    • they received a final decision on their refugee claim,
    • authorities approved their request for protection, or
    • in other situations from the day they became a DFN.
  • Officers may impose conditions on designated foreign nationals. Consequently, IRCC may refuse to consider their PR application under H&C if they don’t comply.
  • IRCC officers may even refuse to consider H&C PR applications for DFNs if they apply in less than 12 months from the end of the designated period.

Note to practitioners: See A25(1.01), A25(1.02), and A25(1.03)!

(4) Refugee Travel Document for designated foreign nationals

Imagine a DFN becomes a convention refugee or a protected person in Canada. IRCC will issue them a Refugee Travel Document only when they become permanent residents in Canada. However, they may issue them this document if they receive a TRP. Unfortunately, as I explained in the previous sessions, both options are subject to restrictions.

Note to practitioners: See A31.1!

Mandatory arrest and detention for designated foreign nationals

If the Minister identifies a person as a DFN, the officers must arrest and detain them upon entry to Canada. However, this applies to designated foreign nationals who are 16 years of age or older. Moreover, if they are inside Canada, they will be subject to arrest and detention. The officers may even arrest them without a warrant.

Officers may end the detention if one of the following conditions apply:

  • The authorities have finalized their refugee or protection application
  • The Immigration Division (ID) of the IRB has ordered their release. However, the ID may run a review hearing for them within 14 days of detention. The subsequent review will be in six months.
  • They request their release, and an officer accepts their request
  • Sometimes the Minister at their initiative releases designated foreign nationals

Note to practitioners: See  A56, A57.1, and A58.1!

Reporting to the officers

Designated foreign nationals may be subject to reporting to the officers. For example,

  • Upon release from detention
  • Upon receiving protection or approval of their refugee claim

Note to practitioners: See R174.1 and A98.1!

Let us help!

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    Al Parsai, LLM, MA, DTM, RCIC
    Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
    Adjunct Professor – Queen’s University – Faculty of Law
    Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting
    Author – 88 Tips on Immigration to Canada

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    Al Parsai

    Al Parsai is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) in Toronto, Canada. He is an adjunct professor at Queen's University Law School and Ashton College. Al, who holds a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University, is a member of CICC and CAPIC organizations. Al, the CEO of Parsai Immigration Services, has represented thousands of applicants from more than 50 countries to the immigration authorities since January 2011.

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