What is an Authorization to Return to Canada?

In Canada, people who are inadmissible to this country are issued either a departure order, an exclusion order, or a deportation order by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and/or the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

While it may seem like this would conclusively end an individual’s journey in Canada, the Canadian government offers a document called an Authorization to Return to Canada (ARC), which could provide the removal order recipient with an opportunity to return to Canada in the future.

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Understanding ARCs first requires a basic understanding of Canada’s three different types of removal orders, which are listed below in order of severity.

Departure orders

When departure orders are issued, the recipient is required by law to leave Canada within 30 days of when the order takes effect. As part of their obligations under a departure order, the recipient must confirm their departure with CBSA when they reach the port of exit.

Note: Departure orders can evolve into deportation orders if the recipient either does not leave Canada within the prescribed 30 calendar day period or neglects to confirm their departure with CBSA when they arrive at their port of exit. The consequences of such an evolution, from departure to a deportation order, will be discussed later.

Exclusion orders

Exclusion orders build on the severity of departure orders by restricting the recipient’s ability to re-enter Canada, under most circumstances, for a minimum of one year. Individuals may, however, be blocked from coming back to Canada for up to five years if the initial exclusion order was issued on the basis of misrepresentation. If given an exclusion order that has required the CBSA to pay for the individual’s removal from Canada, the excluded person is obligated to repay that amount to the CBSA.

Deportation orders

Deportation orders are designed to permanently bar any recipient from returning to Canada unless they apply for an ARC (more on ARCs later). Again, any deported individual who has had their deportation paid for by the CBSA must pay back any removal costs to the agency. With this type of removal order, the above-described repayment is required for a deportee to be considered for re-entry into Canada (on top of an ARC).

What is an Authorization to Return to Canada, and when would I need one?

An ARC is the only way for deportation order recipients to be considered for re-entry into Canada. In other words, an ARC is not necessary for re-entry to Canada if the removal order handed down was a departure or exclusion order. Details on re-entry to Canada after receiving those two types of removal orders are as follows:

Persons that receive a departure order, presuming they followed the required procedures when departing Canada, “may return to Canada in the future [if they] meet the entry requirements at that time.” Of course, if an individual was initially given a departure order that has since evolved into a deportation order, an ARC would then be required if the person wanted to eventually return to Canada.

For recipients of an exclusion order, an ARC is only necessary if the individual would like to explore the possibility of returning to Canada prior to the conclusion of their exclusion period — between one to five years, depending on the circumstances behind their order.

Returning to Canada’s most severe type of removal order, an ARC is always required when a Canadian deportee is seeking re-entry into the country. In other words, regardless of the circumstances behind any individual deportation, all deportation order recipients must apply for ARC whenever they seek re-entry, irrespective of the time that has passed since the order was handed down.

Details about ARCs

Note: ARCs include a processing fee of $400 CAD. More details on specific ARC application steps can be found on the Canadian government’s website.

In all circumstances other than one, an ARC application must accompany another application. This is because ARC applications are specifically intended to be “processed and reviewed in the context of that [other] application.”

For instance, the recipient of an exclusion order may submit an ARC application alongside a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) application so that the two submissions are processed together.

The single circumstance under which an ARC can be processed on its own is when the applicant does not require a visa to enter Canada. As an example, this would be the case if an Australian citizen was seeking entry to Canada because that individual would be a citizen of a visa-exempt country.

The key to ARCs, however, is that they are ultimately circumstantial and discretionary in nature. As evidenced by the case of Adina Harms-Barbour, a German citizen who lived as a permanent resident (PR) in Canada since the age of seven but was ordered to be deported in early 2021 for serious criminality, no guarantee can be made that any removal order recipient will surely be granted an ARC.

Instead, such a decision will rest entirely in the hands of the Canadian government and be contingent on the specific context of a person’s individual situation.

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