What is the private sponsorship of refugees?

Through private sponsorship, Canadian citizens and permanent residents can help refugees find protection and build a new life for themselves and their loved ones in Canada.

Photo: © UNHCR/Jimmy Jeong

Every year, millions of refugees are forced to flee their homes because of war, persecution or violence. Canada has a long tradition of welcoming refugees, and it has different programs to resettle refugees. In addition to the Government-Assisted Refugees (GAR) program and the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program, Canadian citizens and permanent residents are also able to help refugees build a new life in Canada through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program.

The Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program allows Canadians to resettle specific individuals or families who qualify as refugees under Canada’s refugee and humanitarian program. Privately sponsored refugees are additional to those resettled by the Canadian government through other programs. Privately sponsored refugees are approved outside of Canada by Canadian visa officers and they become permanent residents upon arrival in Canada.

Private sponsors are groups of Canadians or organizations, including faith-based associations, ethnocultural groups or settlement organizations. They can sponsor refugees as members of one of the following three categories:

  • Groups of Five (G5): Five or more Canadian citizens or permanent residents with the financial and settlement capacity to fulfill sponsorship requirements who collectively arrange for the sponsorship of a refugee living abroad to welcome them in their community.
  • Community Sponsors: Organizations, associations or corporations located in the community where refugees will be resettled, with the financial and settlement capacity to fulfill sponsorship requirements.
  • Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs): Incorporated organizations that have signed an agreement with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and assume overall responsibility for the management of sponsorships. SAHs can also authorize Constituent Groups (CGs) from the community to sponsor refugees under their agreement.

Sponsors often commit to this process for refugees whose stories they have heard from friends, community members, relatives or overseas contacts. If you wish to sponsor a refugee through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program, you should first consider whether or not the person is eligible under the program.

Sponsoring groups are responsible for providing refugees with the settlement assistance, material and financial support necessary for the duration of the sponsorship period – usually up to one year from the date they arrive in Canada.

The province of Québec receives and approves its own applications for private sponsorship. Learn more about private sponsorship in Québec on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website and on the website of the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration du Québec.

The private sponsorship of refugees in Canada has allowed Canadians to welcome more than 327,000 refugees since it was established in 1979. Over the past ten years, the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program accounted for over 50 per cent of resettled refugee arrivals in Canada.

Learn more about the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website and on the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program’s website.

UNHCR Canada does not select refugees who will be resettled to Canada and is not able to intervene or influence the process of determining whether someone can be considered a refugee or if a refugee can be resettled to Canada. When resettlement places are offered by countries such as Canada, other UNHCR offices around the world in refugees’ countries of asylum will identify those at risk and submit their applications to these resettlement countries. Resettlement countries make the final decision as to whether or not a refugee will be admitted to their country.

Stay alert and report fraudsters who are offering you resettlement, financial or other kinds of assistance, fake documents or fake claims in exchange for money or other favours. All UNHCR services are free of charge. Do not trust anyone or any organization asking you to pay for the services of UNHCR or its partners.

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