Canada’s private sponsorship program is unique in the world. Since its beginning in 1979 under Operation Lifeline to resettle Indochinese refugees to Canada, it has allowed Canadians to support and offer a new home to more than 270 000 refugees!

In the private sponsorship program, refugees are identified and approved overseas and are granted permanent resident status upon their arrival to Canada. They are sponsored by organizations or other groups of Canadians, which may be faith-based communities, cultural groups, or settlement organizations that commit to offering financial and emotional support for the first year in Canada. Private sponsorship occurs in addition to Government-Assisted Refugee resettlement, and it allows Canadian citizens to contribute to the important work of welcoming refugees. However, the private sponsorship program allows sponsors to select individual refugees or refugee communities to focus on – which, among other things, makes family reunification more possible.

Sponsors can also take part in the Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) program for refugee resettlement. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) identifies specific refugees abroad for priority resettlement and ensures that they are assessed by the Canadian government to meet its settlement criteria. The BVOR program is a cost-sharing agreement between Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the sponsorship group – the sponsors provide income support for months 1 and 8-12 after the refugees’ arrival in Canada, while the government provides income support for months 2-7. The sponsors also commit to taking care of start-up costs and providing settlement support for the duration of the first year. The processing times for sponsorship of refugees through the BVOR program are shorter than through the private sponsorship program.