Basic Distinctions when Sponsoring Refugees

From the Webinar I learned a series of important distinctions within Canada’s refugee sponsorship process. I will try to capture the main thrust here.

  1. There are two kinds of refugees recognized by international organizations. “Convention refugees” are those groups who are fleeing persecution in their homeland. “Country of Asylum refugees” are those who are fleeing armed conflict. Thus the refugees we attempting to sponsor will mostly belong to the latter group.
  2. Simplifying, there are two kinds of groups which can sponsor refugees. There are standing organizations which do not need to be assessed as appropriate sponsors, called “Sponsorship Agreement Holders“. Then there are ad hoc groups who want to sponsor a family but do not plan to become recurring sponsors. Most notable here are “Groups of Five” (which can actually be rather larger than five.) The paperwork for becoming an authorized Group of Five is quite onerous: the members must prove that they have a detailed and viable plan for financing and resettlement, that they have the present and future monetary resources, etc.
  3. To sponsor an unknown family, the best route is the Blended Visa Office Referred program. Citizenship and Immigration Canada identifies a family as eligible refugees needing sponsorship. The Federal Government commits to providing six months of financial assistance, to the level set by the province in question. A private group, via a Sponsorship Agreement Holder, covers all “start up costs” plus an additional six months of assistance. (For example, to sponsor a family of four, the group would need to provide $7000 of “start up costs” plus $10,000 of ongoing assistance.)
  4. To sponsor a particular family that one has identified overseas, in contrast, that family must have obtained a “Refugee Status Recognition Document” on its own. This is the official proof of refugee status, and is to be contrasted with the UNHCR registration documents. No matching funds will be provided by the Federal Government. Also, the monies donated to bring the family here are not tax deductible. (They are treated, basically, as a gift directly to the family.)

You can listen to the entire Webinar at:


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