Resettlement to Canada
Note that IRRI's Rights in Exile Programme cannot link refugees with private sponsoring agencies. This website is for information only. Refugees must contact private sponsoring agencies directly for further information.
By way of introduction, the following brief background of Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program by the Canadian Council for Refugees is helpful:
“The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program is one of the key ways in which Canada contributes towards finding protection and a durable solution for the world’s refugees. The overwhelming response of Canadians through this Program to South-East Asian refugees led to the Canadian people being awarded the Nansen Medal just over 25 years ago, in 1986. Canada’s reputation as a welcoming country resettling many refugees continues to depend in significant part on this Program.
The situation today has changed in many ways since the Program was launched in the 1970s, but one thing that remains constant is its unique capacity to engage Canadians directly in resettling more refugees than would otherwise be able to find a home in Canada. This capacity will gain in importance in the coming years, given the Government of Canada’s welcome commitment to increasing the numbers of refugees resettled.
Because the Program is a volunteer one, inviting Canadians to contribute their time and resources, it is important that it be designed and managed with a view to facilitating sponsorship. Canadians have many options for volunteering, and there are many projects that community organizations can take on: it is therefore important to encourage and promote Canadians getting involved – and staying involved – in resettlement through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program”
Q - Who is eligible for refugee resettlement to Canada?
Answer - In order to be eligible for resettlement in Canada, a refugee must belong to one of these categories:
Convention Refugees Abroad are persons who have had their case assessed by either the UNHCR or an adjudicating body in the country of asylum, and have been found to meet the refugee definition in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (hereafter the Refugee Convention): those who have a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or a membership of a particular social group. They must be outside their country of origin and have no durable solution such that resettlement is a viable option. Additionally, the Canadian government assesses the refugee’s ability to establish themselves in Canada (for instance an assessment of language, education, ties to Canada, etc).
- The Country of Asylum Class is for persons in refugee-like situations who do not qualify as Convention Refugees. To qualify under this category, the refugees must be outside their home country or the country where they normally live; be seriously and personally affected by civil war, armed conflict or massive violations of human rights and unable to find an adequate solution within a reasonable period of time. Individuals in this category are mainly identified and referred by private sponsorship groups.
Q - Who sponsors refugees for resettlement?
Answer - Refugees selected for resettlement to Canada can be sponsored by the government and/or a private sponsoring group.
Canadian government assisted: the costs are fully funded by the government. Government-assisted refugees are Convention Refugees Abroad whose initial resettlement in Canada is entirely supported by the Government of Canada (or Quebec, for those selected for that province). The government provides refugees with financial support and essential services in the form of accommodation, clothing, food and resettlement assistance for up to one year from the date of arrival in Canada, or until the refugees are able to support themselves. For more information see: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/outside/resettle-gov.asp.
- Private sponsoring groups: the refugee sponsorship is fully funded by private sponsoring groups. They are responsible for all material and financial support, and for providing emotional support and orientation during the sponsorship period (usually the refugee’s first 12 months in Canada), or until the refugee becomes self-supporting. Privately sponsored refugees are Convention Refugees Abroad and members of the Country of Asylum Class whose resettlement in Canada is supported by:
- Groups of Five (G5) which are groups of five or more Canadian citizens or permanent residents, who are at least 18 years of age and who live in the community where the refuges are expected to settle.
- Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) which are established organizations that have signed a Refugee Sponsorship Agreement with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. There are currently over 75 SAHs across Canada, ranging from religious organizations to ethnocultural groups and other humanitarian organizations. SAHs may recognise Constituent Groups (CGs) to sponsor refugees under its agreement.
- Any organisation, association or corporation which has adequate financial capacity and is based in the community where the refugee is expected to live can sponsor a refugee as a Community Sponsor.
Over the past few years the Canadian government has made changes to Canada’s PSR program, and indications are that it will continue to do so. In October 2012, all Group of Five and Community-sponsored refugees must now show “proof of recognized Convention Refugee status”. As well, beginning in 2012, Sponsorship Agreement Holders have faced a global cap on the number of applications for named refugees they can submit. For information about these and other changes to Canada’s PSR program please see the CCR’s publication on the changes.
Q - How are refugees selected for private sponsorship to Canada?
To be sponsored by the government of Canada, refugees must be referred to the Canadian visa post by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or by a referral agency chosen by the nearest Canadian visa post. If your referral is accepted, you will be contacted by mail.
In private sponsorship, refugees may be identified directly by the sponsoring group (sponsor-referred cases), or may be indentified and referred to the sponsoring group by the local Canadian visa office (visa office-referred cases). A refugee could try to access this process by asking a non-governmental group in Canada to sponsor him/her. This is usually done through a relative or friend of the refugee already living in Canada. (Note if you do not have any relative or friend living in Canada, it is usually extremely difficult to be sponsored to go to Canada as a refugee.) Refugees should contact their relative or friend in Canada and ask them to try to find or form a group in the area where they live to sponsor. Links to further information about non-governmental refugee sponsoring agencies can be found above.
Q - Who cannot qualify for private sponsorship to Canada?
Answer - The following people do NOT qualify for private sponsorship:
- People already in Canada: Such persons seeking Canada’s protection as refugees should contact their local Citizenship and Immigration Centre for information on how to make a refugee claim.
- People who were the subject of a previous sponsorship application and were refused, unless their circumstances have changed (e.g., new information, which was not presented in the previous application has come to light; or the Canadian laws affecting the case have changed).
- People deemed to be Convention refugees by another country and allowed to live there permanently.
- People who fled persecution or civil war some time ago but who can now integrate into the country where they are residing or can return home safely.