Information for Refugees

This is general information about Vive, Inc. as well as information for refugees who would like Vive to assist them in traveling from the United States (primarily from Buffalo, New York) to Canada (primarily Ft. Erie, Ontario) for the purpose of seeking refugee protection in Canada.

ATTENTION: As of July 1, 2013, the fee for individuals staying at Vive is $100 per bed per week. This charge is roughly $14.00 per day. For an individual, it costs $100.00/week, and for a family of four it can range between $100.00-$400.00/week depending on the age of the children. This charge is necessary in order to continue to offer a full range of services to the thousands of asylum seekers whom we serve each year. For those not staying at Vive, a registration fee of $50.00/adult will be charged (As of May 15, 2014, the registration fee will be $100.00/adult.).

BORDER TRANSPORTATION FEES: Transportation to Canada is $40.00 per person, including luggage. Transportation for families up to 4 people is $80.00, including luggage. For families of 5 or more, it is $5.00 more per person, plus $5.00 for luggage.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Refugees from Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC-Kinshasa), Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe can no longer enter Canada from the United States based solely on citizenship.  This exception to the Safe Third Country Agreement no longer exists.  They must qualify under other exceptions to the Safe Third Country Agreement. The exception under which they most likely qualify is that the refugees have an anchor relative in Canada.

Are there other sources of information?

Yes.  They contain valuable information.  Please read them carefully.

What is a refugee?

Immigration law uses the definition from the United Nations of a ‘Convention Refugee.’ Convention Refugees have experienced persecution or have grounds for fearing future persecution in their home country because of their:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a particular social group, or
  • Political opinion

Can I make a refugee claim?

Yes, but you must be a Convention Refugee and you must make an application to the U.S. or Canadian immigration authorities.

In the United States:

You must apply for asylum within one year of your most recent arrival to the United States. You should seek legal assistance for this.

In Canada:

You should consult a Canadian immigration lawyer as soon as possible after your arrival in Canada for advice about making a refugee claim.  You may be eligible to have Canadian legal aid pay for your Canadian lawyer.  In general, you must make a refugee claim when entering Canada unless you have a visa permitting you to enter Canada.  There are different rules depending on how you enter Canada.

What is Vive, Inc.?

Vive, Inc. is an independent, not-for-profit, non-government organization. Vive is not affiliated with any government or governmental agency, including the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS, formerly INS) or Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) or the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).

How can Vive help me?

Vive can help you:

  • Determine if you might be inadmissible to enter Canada;
  • Determine if you might be eligible to enter Canada under an exception to the Safe Third Country Agreement;
  • Assemble documentary evidence to support your claim for admission to Canada
  • Also, Vive provides legal assistance to a limited number of asylum seekers in the United States.  These cases must be screened and must be accepted by the Vive legal department.

What does inadmissibility mean?

Inadmissibility means that you are not permitted to enter Canada.  You may be determined to be inadmissible to enter Canada for reasons including:

  • Security concerns; or
  • Human rights violations; or
  • Criminal convictions; or
  • Misrepresentations (lying).

You may be disqualified from entering if you have been granted refugee status, including withholding of removal, in the United States or another country.  You may call Vive if you have any questions about inadmissibility.

What is the Safe Third Country Agreement?

The Safe Third Country Agreement says that a refugee who applies to make a refugee claim at a land border will not be permitted to enter Canada to make the refugee claim unless the refugee qualifies under an exception to the agreement.  The Safe Third Country Agreement applies to refugees who want to enter Canada via a land crossing from the United States.

What are the exceptions to the Safe Third Country Agreement?

You can enter Canada at a land border point under an exception to the Safe Third Country Agreement if:

  • You have an anchor relative (see below); or
  • You are under 18 years, you are not accompanied by your father, mother or legal guardian, you are unmarried and neither your mother, father nor legal guardian is in Canada or the US; or
  • You have been charged with or convicted of an offence punishable with the death penalty in the country where the charge or conviction was made. (However, you may be ineligible to make a claim on grounds of criminality); or
  • You have a valid visa to enter Canada, other than a transit visa; or
  • You come from a country for whose nationals Canada does not require a visa but the US does (currently Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Botswana, Cyprus,Greece, Malta, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Republic of (South) Korea, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Western Samoa).

Who is an anchor relative?

An anchor relative is a person who is

  • In Canada

AND who is a:

  • Spouse (of the same or opposite sex) or common-law partner (a common-law partner is a person [of the same or opposite sex] with whom you are cohabiting in a conjugal relationship and have cohabited for at least a year)
  • Parent or legal guardian
  • Brother or a sister
  • Child
  • Grandparent
  • Grandchild
  • Aunt or an uncle
  • Nephew or a niece

NOTE: Cousins are NOT eligible to be anchor relatives.

AND who is:

  • A Canadian citizen; or
  • A permanent resident of Canada; or
  • A protected person (determined to be a refugee or a person in need of protection); or
  • Accepted in principle on humanitarian and compassionate grounds (removal order stayed under Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations 233); or
  • 18 years of age or over and is a refugee claimant (and the claim has not been rejected, withdrawn, found abandoned or ineligible); or
  • 18 years of age or over and is in Canada on a work permit or study permit (subject to exceptions).

NOTE: Half siblings are considered the same as full siblings. Therefore, a half brother or half sister can be an anchor relative. An aunt or uncle who is a half brother or half sister of a parent can be an anchor relative.

What evidence do I need?

An immigration officer will interview you and take into account what you say.  However, it is important to bring as much documentary evidence as you can obtain.  It is essential that as many documents as possible, especially your documents, be originals.  However, copies are acceptable if the originals are held by United States immigration authorities.  The documents that you should bring include:

For You and Each Family Member with You:

  • Birth certificate and
  • Passport or
  • Driver’s license, national identity card or other photo ID documentation from your native country.

For Your Anchor Relative:

  • Birth certificate and
  • Birth certificates to prove relationship and
  • Evidence of status in Canada

For Marriages:

  • Marriage certificate or
  • (Common law) Proof of cohabitation including leases, bills sent to either or both partners at the same address, bank statements or any other documents showing names and common addresses.
  • If you have been married less than one year, you must bring proof of your relationship. This may include proof of cohabitation or additional documentation such as photos, letters, and other correspondence.

For Children:

In addition to identity documents, a child under the age of 18 traveling alone, or with person(s) other than both parents, should be in possession of a letter from the absent parent(s)/legal guardian containing authorization for the child to travel with another person and to enter Canada. The name and telephone number of the parents/guardian should be in the authorization letter. Download form

Adoptive parents, legal guardians or persons separated or divorced are advised to keep legal and other relevant documents available in order to clarify custody rights.

NOTE:  You do not need evidence of financial support from your anchor relative.

What do I need to do before arriving at Vive?

You may call 716-892-5304 to ensure that you qualify for our services. You may also contact Vive by email at You do not need an appointment to come to Vive.  Be sure to bring with you all the documentation regarding your refugee claim.  Please read this entire page to ensure you have everything that we need to serve you.

Where is Vive located?

We are located at 50 Wyoming Avenue in Buffalo, New York, USA. From downtown Buffalo, take Rt. 33 East to the Humboldt Parkway Exit. Turn right at the second light, East Ferry. Take East Ferry for about a mile and turn left on Wyoming (street after Moselle light, after a big church on the left). Vive is located in the old school 3 doors past the church. Map

How do I travel to Vive?

The safest way to travel to Vive is by private car.  A taxi can be taken to Vive from Greater Buffalo International Airport or from the bus or train station.  You have certain rights if you are approached by authorities while traveling. See the American Civil Liberties Union Know Your Rights pamphlet at the beginning of this page.

What time of day should I come to Vive?

Our staff registers people from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Monday to Friday.  Please try to arrive during these hours.  If you arrive after registration hours, you may have to wait until the following day to be interviewed.  The office is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.  It is necessary to meet with Vive staff prior to going to Canada.

Can I stay at Vive?

Yes, if we have room and either you are on your way to Canada or you have a case in the United States that has been accepted by our legal department. If there is a bed available, you may stay at Vive for as long as it takes to process your paperwork.  Vive has a bed charge of $10.000 per bed per week. However, Vive is often filled to capacity. We recommend you bring a minimum of $500.00 to stay at a hotel until a bed is available or until you have your appointment to go to Canada.  As previously stated, Vive charges a fee of $100.00 per bed per week.

Is there a fee to go to Canada?

Vive charges the fees previously stated.  Also, taxi drivers will transport you from Vive to your interview at the Canadian border.  Depending on the number of people in the taxi, the fee can be up to $40.00.  If you stay at a hotel, a taxi fee will be charged based on time and distance to the border. Otherwise, there are no fees required for the Canadian refugee process.  Specifically:

  • There are no “special programs” for Haitians, Mexicans, and other nationalities and you should not pay for any “special program”;
  • There are no “special programs” to fast track applications, give preferential treatment or grant refugee status to Haitians, Mexicans or other nationals seeking refugee status;
  • You cannot purchase admission to any immigration or refugee program to gain refugee status;
  • You do not need to purchase forms;
  • You cannot “exchange” United States documents for any type of Canadian “permit”.

How much luggage can I bring?

The number of pieces of luggage/packages you can bring to Vive and take to Canada is limited to one piece per person.

Can I take my car to Canada?

Yes.  You must have a valid title and registration in your name for your car as well as a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance.  There may also be an import charge for your car depending on make and model. If you are traveling with a large number of items in your car or if you are taking a moving truck or trailer to Canada with you, you should make a list of all of the items you are taking to give to Canadian Customs.  To get to the border on the day of your appointment, you must meet the border taxis at Vive in the morning and follow them in your car to the border.  There is a $10.00-$15.00 charge for this service.

If you do not have a valid driver’s license, we can arrange for a taxi driver to drive your car across the border into Canada. This costs $80.00.

What can I bring to Canada?

When you arrive at the border, you will have to declare all goods in your possession. Personal items include clothing, cameras, and personal computers. Canada has specific rules about how much money, alcohol, and tobacco you may bring into the country. You must also declare any firearms, weapons, explosives, plants, animals, and food products you are bringing into Canada. Please refer to the CBSA website for more information.

Can I bring my pet with me to Canada?

Canada has specific requirements concerning bringing any animals into the country. Please refer to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website for more information.