3. Additional sponsorship opportunities

3.1 Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program

The BVOR Program matches refugees referred for resettlement by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) with private sponsors in Canada.

The goal is to engage in a 3-way partnership between the Government of Canada, the UNHCR and private sponsors.

Under the BVOR Program, the Government of Canada will provide up to 6 months of income support through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP), while private sponsors will provide another 6 months of financial support, start-up costs and up to a year of social and emotional support.

To choose a refugee to sponsor under the BVOR program, sponsors should contact the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP) at bvor@rstp.ca.

Sponsors should review the profiles carefully to ensure their sponsoring group and community will be able to meet the needs of the refugee. 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 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)?
  • Are there employment opportunities in your community?
  • Is there any other pertinent information?

Making contact with the refugee: Once a group has been accepted to sponsor a refugee under the BVOR program, it is suggested that, where possible, the sponsoring group contact the refugee prior to their departure for Canada. Establishing early communication helps both the refugee and the 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.

3.2 Other Visa Office-Referred (VOR) Program

Sponsoring groups may be able to sponsor refugees from populations other than those identified under the BVOR Program; however, these sponsorships (Visa Office Referred, or VOR) are not eligible for financial support as is provided under the BVOR Program.

IRCC 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.

To request a profile:

Please contact the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program at bvor@rstp.ca for additional information on the VOR Program.

3.3 Joint Assistance Sponsorship

The Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS) program enables SAHs to partner with IRCC in the resettlement of Government-Assisted Refugees who are identified as having special needs. These refugees often require additional financial and non-financial support to establish successfully in Canada. Consequently, JAS cases are matched with a private sponsor for additional settlement support in addition to receiving income support from the RAP and/or any specialized support from IRCC under the Settlement Program (e.g., case management).

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. 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
  • have a greater need of settlement assistance than other GARs because of exceptional resettlement needs, such as 1 or more of the following:
    • physical or mental disability, which could require treatment in Canada
    • unusual family configuration such as single-parent family with several young children or family consisting only of siblings, 1 or more of whom has assumed parental responsibilities
    • separated minor
    • elderly person
    • has other special needs identified by the overseas IRCC office or a RAP SPO, for cases identified for JAS after arrival to Canada

JAS cases do not require that sponsoring groups have the same financial capacity as regular private sponsorship cases. Under the JAS program, financial assistance in the form of income support is provided directly to individuals/families under RAP. A sponsor may provide additional financial or in-kind assistance to the individual/family if they chose to do so (for example, paying for a meal together or collecting gently used items to donate), but this is not a requirement.

JAS clients are eligible to receive the same orientation and resettlement services as GARs, both under RAP and the Settlement Program. These services are provided by Service Provider Organizations (SPOs). Because of their unique needs, JAS clients benefit from the added sponsor support in terms of time and effort to help get settled in Canada.

At the start of the JAS arrangement, the sponsor and the RAP SPO discuss the case and complete a JAS roles and responsibilities checklist identifying roles and responsibilities between both partners. It is with this case-conferencing process that the sponsor and SPO work together to complement each other’s efforts. The clients will receive a copy of the checklist, so they are aware of the supports that will be provided to them by each party.

Examples of settlement supports that a sponsor may provide include:

  • Connecting families with additional resources in the community beyond their basic needs, such as discounted municipal activity passes
  • In collaboration with the SPO, facilitating the family’s enrolment in non-immediate services such as after school programs, lifestyle programs, etc.
  • Helping clients access interpreter support in the community, and support them as they navigate through their initial appointments
  • Reinforcing or introducing life skills training beyond what is provided by the SPO. This might include taking the time to shop with the client and providing assistance with other day-to-day activities to help ensure that the client is able to live safely and independently
  • Providing support in finding employment, and/or linking to appropriate employment-related services, as needed, according to their settlement plan
  • Suggesting or encouraging informal ways individuals can improve their language skills, such as engaging in conversations, listening to the radio, watching television, reading the local newspaper or consulting store flyers, etc.
  • Introducing individuals and families to the community services which will allow them to expand their social connections (for example, YMCA, community classes and programs)
  • Finding donations or in-kind items such as clothing or household items
  • Attending orientation or other settlement sessions with the family to help support what was learned.

The additional settlement support a sponsor may provide is expected to allow JAS clients to better integrate into their new community and Canadian society.

Having a friend in Canada, or being invited to events or gatherings, is one way that a sponsor can provide additional emotional support, which will help the individual(s) feel connected to their new community. Emotional support is critical to a newcomer’s overall well-being, as it helps the family feel more at ease when facing many new challenges and situations.  

Examples of emotional support that a sponsor may provide include:

  • Providing additional social support and an expanded social network
  • Helping to build positive relationships with new people 
  • Being a point of contact for after-hours issues, questions or emergencies
  • Helping clients to understand their mail or messages they may receive from their children’s school
  • Checking in with clients before and after appointments to better support their needs, for example understanding what challenges they may have encountered in attending appointments.
  • Finding or organizing volunteers for tasks that may be beyond the typical scope of a sponsor, such as:
    • transportation to and from appointments
    • assisting parents with transporting their children to school
    • going over school work with their children
  • helping the parents participate in school activities with their children

JAS profiles on the website: To assist sponsors in selecting cases, overseas IRCC offices refer JAS cases to ROC-O; RAP SPOs within Canada recommend cases to ROC-O via their local IRCC office. Profiles of these cases are then placed on a secure website that is accessible to SAHs via the RSTP.

  • Refugees overseas 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 submitted to ROC-O.  
  • Refugees within Canada have special needs that have become apparent as they began their settlement process. These cases are available for immediate sponsorship and have been in Canada for up to 11 months.  

To identify a JAS case to sponsor, SAHs can check the RSTP database for suitable profiles. The SAH may obtain a more detailed profile by placing the case on hold via the RSTP database.

A sponsoring group wishing to sponsor a JAS case must confirm their commitment to sponsor via the RSTP database, and RSTP will inform ROC-O of the details. ROC-O will reach out, via email, to provide the SAH with the details to complete the Undertaking/Application for a Joint Assistance Sponsorship (IMM 1324) (PDF, 682 KB).

3.4 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. Where there is no other way to guarantee the security of the person concerned, resettlement is the best and often the only protection response.

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.

The UNHCR or another recognized referral organization will refer UPP cases to overseas IRCC offices. Thereafter, a decision to resettle the refugee is made within 24-48 hours. IRCC tries to ensure that these cases are en route to Canada within 3 to 5 days of referral to the mission or, in the event of local challenges, as soon as possible.

Where IRCC 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 in person 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 overseas IRCC office, which will proceed as outlined 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.
  • 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 an urgent protection case requires a sponsor, but one has not been identified before departure:

  • The refugee will be sent to a city with a reception centre and where a sponsor is likely to be found.
  • They will remain in the reception centre for counselling and orientation while waiting to be matched with a private sponsoring group.
  • When a sponsor is identified, the refugee will be sent to their final destination.

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