Sponsoring Refugees – What You Need to Know

1) Who can sponsor a refugee?
a) Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH). These are incorporated organizations which have signed sponsorship agreements with Immigration which sets out all the obligations that come with sponsorships. The SAH’s must be located in the area where the refugee will live. A SAH may act as an “umbrella” and enter into agreements and authorize other members (constituents) of the community and or community organizations to sponsor refugees. Most SAH’s are religious or ethnic organizations. There are presently around 45 such organizations in the GTA.

b) Blended Office-Referred Program. This program was introduced in 2013 and matches refugees identified for resettlement by the UNHCR with private sponsors who are SAH’s or constituents of a SAH. The government of Canada will contribute up to 6 months of income support while private sponsors are responsible for providing the remaining 6 months.

c) Group of Five (G5). A group of 5 or more citizens or Permanent Residents, 18 years of age or older, may come together to sponsor a refugee. Again the group must live in the area where the refugees are expected to resettle. The group must provide emotional and financial assistance to the refugee(s) for the full sponsorship period. Since 2012 G5’s may only sponsor refugees who have been recognized as refugees by the UNHCR or another country. Community sponsor.
d) Community Sponsor. This is an association or corporation resident in the community where the refugee(s) are expected to settle. Like G5s such groups must provide financial and emotional support for the refugee(s) and since 2012 can only sponsor those who have been recognized as refugees by the UNCHR or another country.

2) Who can be sponsored?
a) Convention Refugee Abroad. Convention refugees as defined by s. 96 of the Act, who are outside of Canada, cannot return to their home country, cannot integrate into the country of first asylum and does not have an offer of asylum from any other country. The person must demonstrate that they will be privately sponsored or assisted by the government or has adequate financial resources to support himself and family.
b) Country of Asylum class. Such persons have been seriously affected by civil war or armed conflict or who has suffered massive human rights violations and cannot resolve their problems within the foreseeable future and who will be privately sponsored or has adequate financial resources to support himself and family.

3) What’s involved?
a) Normally the sponsorship obligation lasts one year. During that time the sponsor is responsible for the well being of the refugee(s) including housing and support both emotionally and financially.
b) Sponsors normally provide funds for food, rent, utilities, living expenses, clothing, furniture, household goods. In addition refugees require assistance obtaining medical care, obtaining medical coverage, enrolling in school and language training, orientation and assisting the refugees to become integrated into the community including assistance with obtaining employment.
c) Typically financial support is expected to be at or above the amount of money a similar family would receive through social assistance.

4) Other hurdles.

Other hurdles. Once the sponsorship has passed through the process of selection and approval the refugee(s) must still meet all the other requirements of immigrants including security, medical, and criminal checks. In addition the refugee(s) will be assessed in terms of their ability to establish themselves in Canada.

Conclusion

As this very brief summary demonstrates the process of sponsoring a refugee is cumbersome and time consuming. Presently, processing times can run anywhere from 1 to 5 years depending on the country in question. Strategizing is critical. Knowing which refugees will be processed mostly quickly and through which means can dramatically impact the results of the application and the time it takes to see results. In addition, given the present refugee crisis abroad and the present political climate in Canada the applicable regulations will be in constant flux. If you are interested in sponsoring a refugee contact our office to arrange a consultation to discuss your options.

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