VANCOUVER - Award-winning actor Randy Quaid says Canada's refugee system has saved his life.

Quaid and his wife Evi are seeking refuge in Hollywood North, but while most refugee hearings are conducted behind closed doors to protect the identity and history of claimants, the Quaids' appearances continue to be marked by paparazzi frenzy and conspiracy theories.

It could go on for a while, a Vancouver lawyer said, noting the case is complicated.

On Tuesday morning, Quaid stepped out of a blue Toyota Hybrid, dressed in a grey suit.

He paused on the steps of the Immigration and Refugee Board and contemplated how to respond when asked how he was feeling.

Staring into the cameras as he buttoned his two-piece suit, he sighed, and said: "I feel good. If it wasn't for Canada's refugee laws my wife and I would be dead."

Quaid is hoping to convince the board that he and his wife are targeted by Hollywood killers -- the Quaids have called them "star whackers" -- and thereby accomplish what no other American has ever done in Canada: Gain refugee status.

Randy and Evi were arrested in Vancouver in October on an outstanding warrant in the United States, where they face felony vandalism charges.

They immediately applied for refugee status, but Evi later dropped her claim after her lawyer discovered she is eligible for Canadian citizenship because her father was a Canadian. Her father's status doesn't automatically make Evi Quaid a Canadian, though she has filed a claim for citizenship.

Phil Rankin, a high-profile Vancouver defence lawyer who has dealt with many immigration cases, said a treaty between Canada and the United States could see Evi extradited in the vandalism charges.

But he said the process is far too complex for what he calls frivolous charges, referring to the vandalism accusations.

"She can be deported to the United States even if she is a Canadian citizen, but it wouldn't be under the immigration laws but the extradition laws between the U.S. and Canada," said Rankin, who is not involved in the case.

Rankin said the U.S. would have to formally request extradition and the Supreme Court in B.C. would have to grant an order before Evi could be sent back.

The chances of Randy Quaid remaining in Canada are more murky.

Evi Quaid has not made it clear if she will sponsor her husband of 20 years if her citizenship is granted, but Rankin said even if she does, the criminal charges in the United States are still hanging over his head.

"If he is charged or convicted in the U.S., he could still be considered inadmissible for sponsorship. Just because he is the husband of a Canadian doesn't mean he automatically gets citizenship," Rankin said.

Randy Quaid is going through two hearings at the immigration board.

The first is to determine his refugee claim and the second is to determine whether he is admissible to Canada. At that hearing, immigration officials have submitted voluminous evidence of his alleged criminality in the United States. If found inadmissible, he faces deportation back to the United States.

His admissibility hearing has been postponed to Dec. 22.

In the meantime, Evi and Randy say they feel safe in Canada, which they believe is out of their would-be killers' reach.