Guide to the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program – 3. Additional sponsorship opportunities

3.1 Blended Visa Office-Referred Program

The Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program matches refugees referred for resettlement by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) with private sponsors in Canada. CIC, in consultation with the Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) community, will identify the populations that can be sponsored through the BVOR Program.

The goal is to engage in a three-way partnership among the Government of Canada, the UNHCR and private sponsors.  

Under the BVOR Program, the Government of Canada will provide up to six months of income support through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP), while private sponsors will provide another six months of financial support, start-up costs and up to a year of social and emotional support.

Unless you are interested in sponsoring a Syrian refugee, to be eligible to sponsor a refugee under this program, you must be:

  • a SAH; or
  • a constituent group authorized to sponsor refugees under the agreement held by a SAH.

To choose a BVOR refugee to sponsor, the SAH can review refugee profiles online.

SAHs should review the profiles carefully to ensure their sponsoring group and community will be able to meet the needs of the refugee(s). If a profile indicates existing family or friends in Canada, it is recommended that only sponsoring groups in that community sponsor the case. Other things to look for in a profile:

  • Is the refugee(s) from an ethnocultural background that is already established in your community?
  • Is there reasonably priced housing to accommodate the family size?
  • Does your community have the necessary support services such as medical facilities, trauma counselling, language training, etc.?
  • Are there employment opportunities in your community?
  • Is there any other pertinent information?

A sponsor who is interested, can request a more detailed profile from the Matching Centre by emailing matching-centre@cic.gc.ca and copying the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program - RSTP (info@rstp.ca). The following information should be included in the request:

  • sponsoring group name;
  • contact information (including contact name and telephone number); and
  • profile number(s) of interest.

If a group decides to sponsor a refugee, they must send an email to the Matching Centre (matching-centre@cic.gc.ca) and copy the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (info@rstp.ca). The Matching Centre will give the sponsor the necessary information to fill out the Undertaking/Application to Sponsor (IMM 5373).

Case profiles will remain on the secure website for approximately three months. After three months, the profile may be removed from the website and referred back to the visa office for further processing as a Government Assisted Refugees (GAR). If there is sponsor interest but no sponsorship confirmation, the case posting will be extended until a decision is made by the sponsor.

Only cases from populations identified by CIC will be available for sponsorship through the BVOR Program. Sponsors interested in cases from amongst these populations should, in addition to checking the VOR website, let their interest be known to RSTP to help with matching cases as they become available.

For Syrian refugees

As of September 25, 2015, all groups including SAHs, Groups of Five and Community sponsors who wish to sponsor Syrian refugees will be able to apply to sponsor through the BVOR Program. For sponsors in Quebec, please visit refugee sponsorship in Quebec.

CIC is also making more refugee profiles available earlier in the process so that sponsors can be identified for Syrian refugees. In order to expedite the process, profiles will only be available for 14 days. If no sponsor has been identified, the refugee application will continue to be processed through GAR Program.

SAHs, Groups of Five and Community sponsors interested in sponsoring a Syrian refugee through the BVOR program should contact the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program at info@rstp.ca.

3.2 Other Visa Office-Referred Program

Sponsoring groups are able to sponsor VOR refugees from populations other than those identified under the BVOR Program; however, the Government of Canada does not provide income support to assist with these sponsorships.

To request a profile from the Matching Centre:

CIC is focusing its efforts on the BVOR Program. As such, it will be more difficult to find a suitable VOR case outside of that program particularly if the profile request is very specific. Requests for VOR cases that fall outside populations where Canada is resettling GARs will not be able to be matched.

If the visa office is able to locate a potential match, they will submit the case to the Matching Centre, which will create a VOR profile and send it to the potential sponsor.

SAHs should review the profile carefully to ensure their sponsoring group and community will be able to meet the needs of the refugee(s). Other things to look for in a profile:

  • Is the refugee(s) from an ethnocultural background that is already established in your community?
  • Is there reasonably priced housing to accommodate the family size?
  • Does your community have the necessary support services such as medical facilities, trauma counselling, language training, etc.?
  • Are there employment opportunities in your community?
  • Is there any other pertinent information?

If the sponsoring group decides not to sponsor the refugee, the case will be referred back to the visa office for further processing.

In the event that no VOR cases are available to match the Request for a Refugee Profile (IMM 5438), the Matching Centre will notify the requesting SAH that there may be a waiting period until a case is available or will discuss the option of sponsoring a case through the BVOR Program, if possible.

When you decide to sponsor a case

Send an email to the Matching Centre (matching-centre@cic.gc.ca) and copy the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (info@rstp.ca).

The Matching Centre will give you the necessary information to fill out the Undertaking/Application to Sponsor (IMM 5373).

3.3 Joint Assistance Sponsorship

Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS) program enables SAH and their CG to partner with CIC in the resettlement of refugees who are identified as having special needs. These refugees often require more than the standard 12 months of government-funded income support to establish successfully in Canada. Consequently, JAS cases are matched with a private sponsor in addition to receiving income support from the RAP. Under the JAS program, government assistance and private sponsorship are offered for up to 24 months. In exceptional cases, the private sponsorship component can be extended up to 36 months.

The division of responsibilities is such that CIC provides financial assistance to cover the cost of food, shelter, clothing and essential household goods, while the sponsor provides orientation, settlement assistance and emotional support.

In order to be eligible for a JAS, the refugee:

  • must be a member of the Convention Refugees Abroad Class or the Country of Asylum Class;
  • must have a greater need of settlement assistance than other GARs because of exceptional resettlement needs, such as one or more of the following:
    • physical or mental disability, which could require treatment in Canada;
    • unusual family configuration such as single-parent families with several young children or families consisting only of siblings, one or more of whom has assumed parental responsibilities;
    • separated minors;
    • elderly persons; or
    • other special needs identified by the visa office.

JAS cases do not require that sponsoring groups have the same financial capacity as regular private sponsorship cases; however, these cases often require considerable dedication in terms of time and effort in helping the newcomers get established. Sponsors interested in JAS sponsorship should be aware that their community must be able to offer the services required by the applicant’s special needs for it to be considered a suitable destination. Only SAHs and their CGs are eligible to participate in JAS sponsorships. G5s and CSs are not eligible to be sponsors of JAS cases.

JAS profiles on the website: To assist sponsors in selecting cases, visa offices refer JAS cases to the Matching Centre. Profiles of these cases are then placed on a secure website that is accessible to SAHs. These refugees have already been interviewed and determined to be eligible for Canada's resettlement program. The majority of these cases are ready to depart (travel-ready) for Canada within months of a sponsorship undertaking being made on their behalf.

To sponsor a JAS case, a sponsoring group should complete a Request for a Joint Assistance Sponsorship Refugee Profile (IMM 5504) (PDF, 47 KB ) and submit it to the SAH. The SAH will check the secure website for suitable profiles and provide them to the group for consideration. The sponsor may request a more detailed profile from the Matching Centre when the group is interested in a particular case. A sponsoring group wishing to sponsor a JAS case must complete an Undertaking/Application for a Joint Assistance Sponsorship (IMM 1324) (PDF, 681 KB ) and submit it to CPO-W with an approval letter from the SAH. (New SAHs must also include their settlement plan.)

If no suitable JAS profile is found on the website, the sponsor or SAH should send the Request for a Joint Assistance Sponsorship Refugee Profile (IMM 5504) (PDF, 47 KB) to the Matching Centre. One of the functions of the Matching Centre is to manage an inventory of refugee profile requests from sponsoring groups. The Request for a Joint Assistance Sponsorship Refugee Profile will be added to the inventory until a suitable match is made. When the Matching Centre locates a possible match, it will refer the refugee’s case profile to the SAH and the sponsoring group that submitted the profile request. The SAH and sponsor should review the profile and notify the Matching Centre as soon as possible as to whether or not it will undertake the sponsorship. While the profile is being reviewed, it will remain on the secure website until the sponsoring group has made its decision.

If another sponsoring group expresses interest in a profile under active consideration by another group, the profile information will be provided, but the fact that another group is also considering the case will be noted. In all cases, the sponsoring group should consult the Matching Centre before signing any JAS undertakings to ensure that the profile is still available.

This process would apply to VOR profiles on the website as well.

Making contact with the refugee: Once a group has been accepted to sponsor a refugee under the JAS program, it is suggested that, where possible, the sponsoring group should contact the refugee prior to his or her departure for Canada. Establishing early communication helps both refugee and sponsor to understand what they can expect from each other. The first correspondence should introduce the group and explain its role in welcoming the refugee to Canada. The profile of the refugee will indicate the level of English or French the individual understands. Correspondence may need to be translated into the refugee's language before being sent to the refugee.

3.4 Women at Risk program

The Women at Risk (AWR) program is for women who do not have the normal protection of a family unit and who find themselves in precarious situations where the local authorities cannot ensure their safety. This includes women who are experiencing significant difficulties, such as harassment by local authorities or members of their own communities. Some women may need immediate protection while others are in permanently unstable circumstances. The persecution or harassment they are experiencing may be solely gender-based.

While applicants must qualify as Convention Refugees Abroad or members of the Country of Asylum classes, they may not fully meet the requirement to demonstrate an ability to establish themselves in Canada in the short or medium term. AWR cases considered to be either in urgent need of protection or vulnerable are exempt from the regulatory requirement to establish successfully.

In many cases, women eligible under the AWR program will require a JAS as outlined above. There may be situations, however, where the person is eligible under the program but does not qualify for a JAS.

AWR should be counselled that it will not be possible in the future to sponsor a previously undeclared spouse under the Family Class program. Undeclared spouses will also not be eligible for resettlement under the OYW. See section 2.10.

3.5 Urgent Protection Program

The Urgent Protection Program (UPP) was developed to enable Canada to respond to requests by referral organizations, such as the UNHCR, to provide rapid resettlement for refugees in urgent need of protection. Members of the Convention Refugees Abroad or Humanitarian Protected Persons Abroad classes who qualify for resettlement and are in need of urgent protection because of immediate threats to life, liberty or physical well-being are resettled on the expedited basis required by their particular circumstances. Where there is no other way to guarantee the security of the person concerned, resettlement is the best and often the only protection response.

The UNHCR or another recognized referral organization will refer UPP cases to Canadian visa offices abroad. Thereafter, a decision to resettle the refugee is made within 24-48 hours. CIC tries to ensure that these cases are en route to Canada within three to five days of referral to the mission or, in the event of local challenges, as soon as possible. Where CIC is unable to provide immediate protection, the referral organization is notified so that resettlement to another country may be considered.

For privately sponsored refugees who are in urgent need of protection, the applicant must present himself/herself to the UNHCR for an assessment. It is the mandate of the UNHCR or other designated referral agency to provide protection in the country of refuge. Should the UNHCR find the applicant to be in need of urgent protection, it will advise the visa office, which will proceed as above.

Refugees who are eligible may include but are not limited to:

  • those who are under threat of refoulement, expulsion, prolonged arbitrary detention or extra-judicial execution; or
  • those who are facing a real, direct threat to their physical safety, which could result in their being killed or subjected to abduction, rape, sexual abuse, violence or torture.

UPP cases are designated as GARs and some may be identified as JAS cases.

If the refugee is matched with a sponsor prior to departure for Canada, the refugee will go directly to the sponsor’s community. If refugees have family in Canada, efforts will be made to ensure that they are sent to their family’s community.
Where urgent protection cases require a sponsor, but one has not been identified before their departure:

  • the refugees will be sent to cities with reception centres and where a sponsor is likely to be found.
  • They will remain in the reception centres for counselling and orientation while waiting to be matched with a private sponsoring group.  
  • When a sponsor is identified, UPP cases will be sent to their final destination.
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