2.A Refugees: From Eligibility to Arrival
A.4 How are sponsorship-eligible refugees identified?
(ii) Can private citizens or community groups nominate particular individuals for sponsorship?
How Canada Does It
In Canada, there are two main ways to identify refugees for private sponsorship:
- SPONSOR-REFERRED: the sponsoring group names the refugee or refugee family it wishes to sponsor; or
- THROUGH A PARTNER REFERRAL ORGANIZATION: UNHCR or another approved referral agency refers the refugees to a Canadian mission overseas for resettlement to Canada. The visa officer in the mission determines whether the refugees will be resettled to Canada under the Government Assisted Refugee (GAR) program, or through private sponsorship through the Visa-Office-Referred (VOR) program, the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program, or the Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS) program (see 2.A.2(i)).
SPONSOR-REFERRED: The sponsoring group may have obtained the refugee referral from an overseas contact, a friend, a relative in Canada, or elsewhere. Private sponsors submit the sponsorship application on behalf of the sponsor-referred refugee to the Government of Canada. In most cases, refugees should be resettled in their sponsors’ community.
To be privately sponsored as a refugee by a Group of Five or a Community Sponsor (see 2.B.3), the refugee applicant must have valid proof of refugee status conferred by UNHCR or their host state. Having refugee status means that UNHCR or the host state has already examined a person’s claim for asylum and formally recognized them as a refugee. Groups of Five and Community sponsors must submit valid proof of refugee status along with the sponsorship application to the Government of Canada. Refugee applicants without refugee status recognition can only be sponsored by a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) (see 2.B.3).
THROUGH A PARTNER REFERRAL ORGANIZATION: Private sponsors may contact the Government of Canada to ask if any cases referred by UNHCR are available for sponsorship through the VOR, BVOR, and JAS programs. Once the refugees are landed in Canada, the sponsoring group provides settlement and varying amounts of financial support (based on the sponsorship program selected by Canada) throughout the sponsorship period (see 2.A.2(i)).
Many refugees that resettle to Canada through private sponsorship or government resettlement programs leave family members behind in difficult situations. Private sponsorship becomes an important avenue for newcomer families to reunite with loved ones who are also refugees by sponsoring them to come to Canada. This trend is known in the Canadian sponsorship sector as the “echo effect.”