Main Sources for Immigration Law (18:II)

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A. Main Sources of Immigration Law

Immigration law is a very dynamic area, and it has undergone significant change in the recent past. For this reason, it is imperative to refer to the following sources for the most up to date information about immigration law:

There are six general sources of immigration law and policy: the IRPA, the IRP Regulations, the Manuals, the Operational Bulletins, the Ministerial Instructions, and case law. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is also applicable to immigration matters as the IRPA and IRP Regulations must be consistent with the Charter provisions.

1. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Regulations

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is the primary source and should be referenced first. However the IRPA is "framework" legislation, i.e. the provisions are general and principled. The IRP Regulations are more detailed than IRPA and give specific guidance to applicants. Case law in immigration law operates in the same manner as it does in other areas of the law. Case Law interprets the IRPA and the IRP Regulations. The IRPA is a federal statute, and cases generally go to the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada. The Immigration and Refugee Board has jurisdiction to hear certain immigration matters (consisting of four separate devisions).

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, RSC 2001, c 27 ("IRPA") came into force June 28th, 2002, replacing the former Immigration Act of Canada, 1976. It is important to note which legislation governs a matter. Refer to Part 5 of IRPA and Part 20 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, SOR/2002-227 ("IRP Regulations") for the transitional rovisions if you may be subject to the old Act.

NOTE: The key legislation in this area of law changes frequently. Make sure to check the most recent version of the IRPA and Regulations, and to check the IRCC website for policy changes.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)


  • Canadian immigration law is changing constantly and sometimes unpredictably. To ensure that you are using the most up to date forms, and the most current policies and procedures, it is important to always check the web site of Citizenship and Immigration Canada: Here you can find information, downloadable forms, and links to the IRPA, Regulations, and Policy Manuals. Operational Manuals and Bulletins published by CIC are available online under the Publications heading ( They explain the policies and procedures used by immigration officials to interpret the IRPA.
NOTE: The Operational Bulletins section of the CIC Publications site is currently undergoing a reformatting and restructuring effort wherein static Portable Document Format (PDF) manuals are being replaced with HTML policy documents that can be changed as soon as CIC policy changes. There is no indication at this time as to where “legacy” policies will be stored or archived, and it is quite possible that previous policies will not be accessible once a policy has changed.

Immigration and Refugee Board


H.M. Goslett & B.J. Caruso eds., The 2016 Annotated Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of Canada, (Toronto: Carswell, Legal Publications). Available on reserve in the UBC Law Library.

L. Waldman, Canadian Immigration Law and Practice 2012 (Markham, Ont: LexisNexis 2012).

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