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Sanctuary Scholars

About This Program

The Sanctuary Scholars program offered at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) via the Office of Social Innovation (OSI), provides an access pathway specifically for students who hold precarious immigration status.

While students with precarious immigration status, who we have termed Sanctuary Scholars, can enroll in school at the elementary and secondary levels in Ontario, accessing the post-secondary level is often very difficult or even impossible. Sanctuary Scholars may have completed all of their education in Ontario, or may be coming to Canada with high school or even university-level education, but they cannot join their friends and peers in pursuing post-secondary education. This is why at Toronto Metropolitan University we have worked hard to develop a new access pathway specifically for Sanctuary Scholars.

In keeping with our commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and access as outlined in the 2020-2025  (PDF file) Strategic Research Plan, TMU has taken an important step by creating the Sanctuary Scholars program. We have furthered our commitment to welcome all people to an environment of belonging, based on the university’s values of inclusivity, innovation and excellence. We work continuously to establish a safe and welcoming place for Sanctuary Scholars. We take the confidentiality and the unique needs of this group very seriously.


"We are more than our immigration status; we are resilient individuals who, like so many before us, seek a better life and a chance to contribute positively to the communities we now call home."

Sanctuary Scholar Student

What is Precarious Immigration Status?

Within the Sanctuary Scholars program at TMU, the term ‘precarious status’ is used to include people who have made immigration applications, including: refugee claims, refused refugee claims, humanitarian and compassionate ground (H&C)* applications, pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA)* applications, people on temporary resident permits (TRPs)*, as well as those who have no immigration status. 

*See the Terminology list

Your donation will make a real difference in the lives of Sanctuary Scholars students.

Sanctuary Scholar students can study in nearly all departments and programs at TMU. The program allows eligible students to access undergraduate degrees at TMU at domestic tuition fee rates instead of international tuition rates. Access to supports to help navigate the university and address any status-related barriers or obstacles will also be provided.   

You may be eligible for the Sanctuary Scholars program if you have made an immigration application, including: a refugee claim, you have had a refused refugee claim (and may or may not be undertaking an appeal), are a humanitarian and compassionate grounds applicant, completed a pre-removal risk assessment application, are on a temporary resident permit, or have no immigration status. You must contact the program coordinator to determine if you are eligible.


Prospective Students

Prospective students can apply to TMU through the regular Ontario University Application Centre (OUAC) application. Please ensure that you have all the required prerequisites for the programs that you are applying to. To see if you are eligible for the Sanctuary Scholars program you must contact the program coordinator. You can contact the program coordinator before or after you complete your OUAC application. 

For more information on how to apply head to the TMU admissions page.

Current TMU Students

You must contact the program coordinator to determine if you are eligible. 

What to include in your email:
  • First and last name
  • Year and program

Students in the Sanctuary Scholars program pay domestic fee rates, however students who hold precarious immigration status are not eligible for OSAP (i.e. government loans and grants) until you receive a positive decision on a refugee claim or receive permanent residence. There are also very few scholarships or bursaries available. It is important for Sanctuary Scholars to know the tuition fees expected and consider your budget carefully when deciding whether to apply to TMU as a full-time or part-time student. 

What do I do if I’m having a tough time?

There are many different supports set up within the university, and within the community, that can help. It is always useful to ask for help! If you are not sure who to contact, are concerned about your immigration status, or need suggestions outside the university, you can contact the Sanctuary Scholars program coordinator:

We know that the delays in Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)* and the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB)* processing mean that many are caught in immigration limbo for years, or even decades.

Precarious immigration status is an umbrella term used to include all of these immigration statuses:

Refugee Claims: A refugee claimant is someone who has made a request for refugee protection at a port of entry (airport or land border) or at an Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) office in Canada. Once the person has made their claim, they must prove that they have a “well-founded fear” of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. There is also there is a second category of claim: persons in need of protection, which is someone who faces the danger of torture, risk to their life or risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if they return to their home country. Refugee claims are adjudicated by the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). Refugee claimants often wait years for their claim to be adjudicated. When a claim is accepted the claimant becomes a convention refugee or protected person. 

Refused Refugee Claimants: If a refugee claim is denied by the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board, the claimant may choose to appeal that decision at the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board. If the appeal is also denied, the claimant can make an application to the Federal Court for a judicial review of the negative decision, if a leave is granted by the Court. After the initial refusal of the claim until the appeal/judicial review is accepted, or the person receives a deportation date, they would be in legal limbo as a refused refugee claimant. 

Humanitarian and Compassionate Ground (H&C) Applications: An H&C application is a two-stage application for permanent residence in Canada. It is granted to individuals who are inadmissible or who do not meet the requirements of the immigration legislation, but have compelling Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) grounds to remain in Canada. This application, made to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), considers an applicant’s establishment in Canada, the hardship they would face if forced to return to their country of origin, and the best interest of any child directly affected. The assessment of these applications is discretionary, so applicants need to submit substantial evidence to support their applications. These applications are quite expensive and often take years to be decided. 

Pre-Removal Risk Assessments (PRRA): A PRRA is a written application, assessed by Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), which is used to explain why a person is afraid to return to their country citizenship, and they must provide documents to demonstrate an imminent danger of torture, risk of persecution or of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if sent back to their country of origin. To be eligible for a PRRA, a person must be facing an imminent deportation however , they cannot be deported until the PRRA is fully assessed. 

Temporary Resident Permits (TRP): A TRP authorizes a person to enter or remain in Canada for a specific amount of time. To be eligible for a TRP, a person must be otherwise inadmissible to Canada for various reasons (including medical reasons). TRPs are also granted to individuals recognized as victims of human trafficking or of family violence.

No Immigration Status: People usually end up without immigration status in Canada when their visa expires, when the person sponsoring them withdraws or revokes the sponsorship (eg. an employer, spouse or family member), when the refugee claim and appeals/PRRA application are denied, when they overstay a deportation date, or when they cannot be deported because they are stateless or their country of citizenship refuses to readmit them.