Refugee resettlement to Canada

UNHCR helps refugees who are most at risk find a safe new home through resettlement – the transfer of refugees from an asylum country to another State that has agreed to admit them, grant them the right to permanent residency and, eventually, give them the chance to gain a new citizenship.

Photo: © UNHCR/Annie Sakkab/Leyland Cecco

Everyone has the right to seek asylum. Around the world, UNHCR works closely with States so that refugees have access to fair, efficient, and adaptable asylum systems. In many countries, local authorities have established procedures for asylum-seekers to obtain refugee status, and in others, UNHCR provides services to ensure that those fleeing persecution are protected.

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. The authorities of resettlement countries make the final decision as to whether or not a refugee can be admitted to their country. To find out how UNHCR or state authorities determine whether you are a refugee outside of Canada, visit UNHCR’s Help section and click on the page of the country where you are.

Once refugees are referred for resettlement by UNHCR, Canadian visa officers assess whether they are in need of resettlement and conduct medical, criminal and security screenings. Upon arrival, resettled refugees become permanent residents and, in time, can apply for Canadian citizenship.

Are you a refugee looking for resettlement in Canada?

If you are inquiring about your case and you are currently outside of Canada, please contact the nearest UNHCR office in your host or asylum country. The decision on who will be referred for resettlement is made by the local UNHCR office in the refugee’s country of asylum.

Canada’s resettlement programs

Canada has a long tradition of welcoming refugees. Since 1959, Canada has resettled over 700,000 refugees from around the world. Learn more about the contributions of refugees to the country’s economy and cultural diversity.

Canada has three different resettlement programs. Under the Government-Assisted Refugees (GAR) program, refugees are referred for resettlement to Canada by UNHCR and other partners with which Canada has an agreement. Refugees must be registered with UNHCR or the state authorities in the country where they found asylum to be considered for referral. Those who benefit from the program receive financial support from the Canadian government for up to one year from the date they arrive in Canada. In the province of Québec, the process is a bit different. Québec officials are responsible for screening potential candidates for the Government-Assisted Refugees (GAR) program. Learn more about the program 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 (PSR) program allows Canadian citizens and permanent residents to resettle persons who qualify as refugees under Canada’s refugee and humanitarian program. Sponsoring groups provide refugees with settlement assistance and financial support for up to one year from the date they arrive in Canada. 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 Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program matches refugees identified for resettlement by UNHCR with private sponsors in Canada. Costs are shared between these private sponsors and the Canadian government, with each party providing six months of financial support. The province of Québec does not have the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program.

Key facts and figures

  • In 2019, 30,087 refugees were resettled to Canada.
  • In 2019, 64 per cent of refugees arrived through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program, 33 per cent arrived through the Government-Assisted Refugees (GAR) program, and 3 per cent arrived through the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program.
  • In 2019, 43.4 per cent of resettled refugees came from the Middle East, 42.1 per cent came from Africa, 12.4 per cent came from Asia, 0.5 per cent came from the Americas, and 0.08 per cent came from Europe.
  • In 2019, 54 per cent of resettled refugees were male and 46 per cent were female. 61 per cent came as adults, while 39 per cent were minors.
  • In 2019, 30 per cent of resettled refugees were survivors of torture or violence, 29 per cent had specific legal and physical protection needs, 18 per cent were women at risk, 10 per cent were children at risk or reunited family members, 7 per cent lacked an alternative solution to resettlement, and 5 per cent had medical needs that could not be addressed in their host 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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