Based on research by the Grove and Friends and Dewson School Community Refugees Welcome, to the best of our information. For more detailed and authoritative answers, please review Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.
What is involved in sponsoring a refugee?
There are three main components to sponsoring a refugee. The first is an application process, where details of the sponsorship plan and the refugee’s case are assessed by the Government of Canada. The second is a financial commitment – likely, about $30,000 for a family of four in Canada. The third is hands-on settlement assistance upon the arrival of the refugee family.
Where does the fundraising target of approximately $30,000 come from?
The Government of Canada publishes a table of projected expenses for refugees – for a family of four, the estimated cost is over $27,000, which includes start-up costs, and a living allowance for twelve months based on provincial social assistance rates.
Does all of the money (100 per cent) raised go to the actual refugee family?
The vast majority of the money goes to the refugee family directly to cover living expenses.
Most Sponsorship Agreement Holders will charge a small administrative fee (around 5%) to cover the costs of administration (anything from putting together applications to issuing tax receipts). Most fundraising websites also charge a fee – which range considerably, from 3% at Canada Helps or Tilt, to 8% at Indiegogo.
How does the process work?
The refugee process in Canada is pretty complex, and it depends on a number of factors, such as:
Have you already identified a refugee family needing sponsorship?
Has someone in that family been officially recognized as a refugee by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees or another government?
If both those things are true, a group of five or community group can sponsor a refugee directly. In that situation, the government would assess both the applicants and the refugee family.
If a group does not know a specific refugee, or that refugee has not been officially recognized overseas, then potential sponsors must work through Sponsorship Agreement Holders. Sponsorship Agreement Holders will co-sponsor or work with a constituent group in the community to go through the application process.
Generally, school communities will want to work with a Sponsorship Agreement Holder in order to ensure transparency in terms of where funds are going, and to increase the chance of getting charitable receipts.
What is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH)?
Usually charities or churches, they are groups who have been pre-approved by government to support the resettlement of refugees in Canada. Very often, they have minimal staff. If they have the capacity, Sponsorship Agreement Holders will work with you to help match with refugee families (groups like Lifeline Syria are helping with this matchmaking too), and will support the application process. They have to approve your application – capacity to provide financial and practical support. Depending on whether the SAH is a registered charity, it may be possible to receive a tax receipt for donations.
What is a Constituent Group?
Many Sponsorship Agreement Holders work with Constituent Groups, with whom they have a memorandum of Agreement – for example, if the Unitarian Church is a SAH, a particular congregation may be recognized as a Constituent Group by the SAH. Lifeline Syria has also been recognized as a Constituent Group. Many sponsoring groups will have all their interaction directly with the Constituent Group not a SAH.
This is a sample agreement that can be used to demonstrate that a constituent group is working with a SAH.
What is the Blended Visa Office Referral Program (BVOR)?
The Government of Canada has a program where they provide some financial support and expedited processing to a number of refugees – from all over the world – whom they have identified as particularly vulnerable. The government has increased the number of cases where this support is provided since October, 2015 from a maximum of 1000 cases.
The government posts a list of refugees eligible for sponsorship in the BVOR program most weeks. Normally, Sponsorship Agreement Holders will identify cases that they think would be a good match for sponsorship groups and give them a chance to “accept” a particular case.
Refugees in the BVOR program are close to travel-ready, and the government pays about 40% the cost of sponsorship support.
Who is a refugee?
The legal definition of a refugee is someone, outside their own country, who is not in Canada already, who is unable or unwilling to return to their own country and has no option for local integration where they are. A refugee must also demonstrate “a well-founded fear of persecution” or that they are seriously and personally affected by civil war, armed conflict, or massive violations of human rights. To be sponsored, a refugee must be eligible (meet the criteria above), and admissible (have made it through security, medical and criminal background checks).
Who pays the refugee's transportation costs to arrive in Canada?
Depending on the country they may or may not be living in Refugee Camps but will be registered with the UN High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR). Once selected by the government of Canada, the refugee will receive a government issued Transportation Loan. Transportation is then arranged by the International Organization of Migration (IOM). Refugees are able to ask the government of Canada for a loan deferral but they are expected to re-pay the loan once they have re-settled and find employment. Often sponsor groups pay for the transportation costs (which can be quite high especially for a large family) but this is not part of the legal obligation of $27,000.
The Government of Canada has agreed to issue a grant to cover travel costs – but only for refugees from Syria. The Canadian Council on Refugees, among others, is advocating that travel costs for all refugees be covered by grants.
What are the legal responsibilities of the sponsors?
They are responsible for ensuring the minimum funds are raised and made available to the family (if needed). The legal responsibility ends after 1 year. We recommend a minimum of five families sign the agreement.
In the news it was reported that there are not enough Syrian families being processed. Will we actually get a family? Are there enough families?
In light of recent news we are extremely hopeful that Syrian refugees will be processed more quickly by the Canadian government. Even if you raise the funds in the next two weeks it COULD take up to a year to greet the family at the airport.
When do the pledges need to become actual dollars?
Each Sponsorship Agreement Holder will have their own rules about how much actual money needs to be available before submitting an application to the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
What kinds of setbacks are SAHs experiencing?
When do we connect with a SAH?
You do not have to wait until you have the full amount of money raised to connect with a SAH or Constituent Group. It can be extremely useful to connect early in the process, before doing fundraising because many SAHs or Constituent Groups will have infrastructure to support your work; it is desireable that funds go directly to a recognized agency with the capacity to sponsor.
Who is responsible for health care costs for the family's first year?
Thanks to recent policy decisions, extended health care benefits are available for all refugees through the Interim Federal Health Program. It covers for example, prescription drugs, eye wear and basic dental care.
What are the responsibilities of the sponsors both legal and non-legal?
For a full list of responsibilities visit the CICs website and search for “The Undertaking Form” and look under section G. It does seem the main one is the providing $27,000 of financial support for the first 12 months. If sponsors fail to provide this and the family accesses Social Assistance at any time within the initial 12 months – the folks who signed the agreement are responsible for re-paying the assistance received to the Government of Canada.
Sponsors are encouraged to do or help with the following:
- Welcome at the airport
- Arrange for temporary housing (please leave up to the family to find their own permanent housing)
- Help find permanent housing
- Apply for a health card
- Enroll in English Classes (if needed)
- Connect with Settlement Agencies
- Access Health Care Services (doctor, dentist)
- Enroll Children in School
- Apply for Social Insurance Card
- Open Up Bank Account
- Find A Job
- Apply For Child Tax Benefit
- Provide Emotional and Moral Support
What are the sponsors not responsible for?
Sponsors are not responsible for any debt the family incurs so long as they have made the agreed-upon financial support available in the first 12 months. They are not responsible for any criminal activity on the part of any family member.
What can I expect overall as a sponsor?
There are a number of excellent handbooks available that provide an overview of the process and helpful information for each stage. We recommend in particular the handbook of the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program and the handbook of Lifeline Syria.