Are you thinking of becoming a refugee sponsor? Either leading a group yourself or joining an existing group? Read on for a Q and A crash course on why you should do this and what it means to sponsor a refugee.
I want to be a sponsor or join a sponsor group. Should I?
Heck, yes! You should absolutely do this.
But why should I sponsor a refugee?
You should sponsor a refugee because it is a life changing experience. It will make you feel like a superhero. Do you ever look at those images of people flying into disaster areas and war torn countries to deliver aid and imagine yourself doing something similar? But you don’t have the skills, the experience or, let’s be honest, the courage? This is like that, only you don’t need skills, experience, or courage. You only need compassion and the drive to make a difference.
It’s also a great opportunity to learn about the world and different cultures. And it is an incredible way to make new friends. Ask anyone involved and they will tell you that they have made so many valuable new friends through getting involved with refugee sponsorship. And the best kind of friends too! People who are engaged with the world and full of kindness and motivation to do good. It’s awesome.
We would also say that it’s one of the most rewarding experiences you can create for yourself. You should try it. Be part of something big, something meaningful and something that will change both you and the world you live in.
Tell me more. What is the Canadian Private Sponsorship Program?
The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program is a Canadian initiative established in 1978 in response to the Indochina refugee crisis. The program, which was unique to Canada until recently, allows private citizens to take the responsibility of resettling refugees in Canada. Since it was established, more than 275,000 refugees have been sponsored through the program.
You can read about the history of this supercool program here.
Neat! How do I get involved?
Put very simply: a group is formed and the group either raises funds through fundraising efforts or puts forth their own funds to sponsor the refugee/refugees. The group can then either sponsor a refugee of their choice or be matched with one by an organization.
Once the group is formed and the funds have been raised, the group works with the refugee to fill out and submit an application to the IRCC (not gonna lie. It’s a lot of paperwork. But we hear there are people out there who LOVE paperwork!). The application tells the story of why the refugee fled their home country and contains information on the refugee’s family and background. Once the application is submitted it is reviewed by the IRCC and then sent to a Canadian immigration office overseas, which will then conduct medical and security checks. Once all of this is completed and the refugee is approved, the refugee travels to Canada and is welcomed by their sponsor group. From the submission of the application to the arrival of the refugee, the process can take up to two years.
The group is then responsible for the refugee’s settlement needs for 12 months.
Who can become a sponsor?
Canadian citizens and permanent residents can become sponsors and must join or form a group.
Depending on what your group decides to do, you can either form a Group of Five (description, link) or work with non-profit community organizations to support your sponsorship. These organizations will typically be either a community sponsor or SAH. Community sponsors and SAHs are organizations that typically have experience in sponsoring refugees to Canada and will have different rules and expectations for sponsors.
Regardless of the type of group, the group members all have to live in the area where the refugee is going to settle. You can’t live in, say, Vancouver and be part of a constituent group in Toronto.
Who qualifies to be sponsored through this system?
All refugees who are recognized by the UNHCR as having refugee status are eligible for sponsorship by a Group of Five, a community sponsor or a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH). If a displaced person does NOT have UNHCR status they can ONLY be sponsored by a SAH.
What happens when the refugees arrive in Canada and what is the sponsor group responsible for after their arrival?
When a “refugee” arrives in Canada they receive Permanent Resident status at the airport (fun fact: this means they are no longer a refugee and are now a permanent resident.). They are able to work and are given temporary health insurance (until they receive a proper provincial health card).
Your sponsor team will welcome the newcomer at the airport (the moment you’ve been waiting for!) and welcome them to their new home. Newcomers to Canada need help with the basics – finding a place to live, furniture, seasonal clothing – and help navigating the bureaucratic maze – health cards, doctors, enrolment in school, finding employment, etc.
The funds that are raised by the sponsor group will go to cover these costs of life in Canada during their first year.
More importantly, newcomers need emotional and social support when they arrive, and sponsors commit to providing this for a period of one year. Almost all sponsors find that the relationships extend far beyond that first year, and many sponsors feel like they have gained extended members of their family.
This all sounds like the best thing ever! How much money does a group have to raise to sponsor a refugee?
Required funds begin at $16,500 to sponsor and individual and go up from there, to $35,500 to sponsor a family of five. Each person on top of that requires $2,700.
Your group will need to prove either that it has the required amount of funds in a bank account or that they are in a situation to provide the funds upon arrival before the file can be processed. This means either providing bank statements or personal financial information.
Also, note that the group might have to raise more than the required amount, as some SAHs require this. You should raise more anyway if you live in a place like Toronto or Vancouver, because you know nobody is living for 12 months in Toronto on $16,500.
This might look like a lot, and OK, it kind of is, but fundraising can be a lot of fun! It’s a great opportunity to get creative, connect with your community and have a great time. And if you’re interested, we’ll share some ideas to get you going. Are you interested?
Boy, am I!? I can’t wait to get involved. How do I get started???
Get in touch with us!