The Matching Centre


Refugees are resettled in different parts of Canada, from coast to coast. For more than 20 years, the Matching Centre has helped government-assisted refugees find a community to call home.

The Matching Centre is at Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) national headquarters in Ottawa. It works with IRCC visa offices abroad to learn about the background and unique needs of government-assisted refugees coming to Canada.

Working closely with IRCC’s regional and local offices, the Matching Centre decides which city will best suit each refugee’s needs, based on the information the refugees provide to the visa officers. Considerations include:

  • where family and friends live in Canada;
  • pre-established annual plans for the cities of destination;
  • the language they speak;
  • ethnic, cultural and religious communities in the area;
  • medical needs; and
  • availability of settlement services.

The Centre’s priority is to find a community which will let these people connect with a support network that can help them adjust to life in Canada. Government-assisted refugees go to any of 23 cities in Canada, outside of Quebec. Quebec has its own program in 13 communities.

Based on the total number of refugees that it will resettle that year, IRCC consults with the provinces and territories to determine the number of refugees each will take. The resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees in a few short months has worked in the same way, but at a much faster pace.

Once a city has been chosen, the Matching Centre informs the visa office, and travel arrangements for the refugee are made by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Final arrival details are then sent to the Matching Centre, which shares them with local IRCC offices, ports of entry, service-providing organizations and sponsoring groups (if applicable) to help in preparing for the refugee’s arrival.

Case Study – fictitious case

Tarek and his wife Rasha, along with their four young children, have been selected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to come to Canada as refugees. Their visa application is being processed in Amman, Jordan. The visa officer in Amman has shared their file with the Matching Centre in Ottawa. Because the family is not linked with a private sponsor, they will arrive in Canada as Government-Assisted Refugees.

The analyst at the Matching Centre examines their file and determines the following:

  • Tarek speaks a little English, but his wife and children do not;
  • Rasha has a cousin who lives in Halifax; and
  • one of the children has a learning disability.

The analyst’s initial consideration is to destine the family to Halifax, given their family connection. The analyst also knows that Halifax is one of the 23 destination communities (outside Quebec) that has the specialized services this family will need to settle and succeed in Canada.

IRCC, through the Situation Centre and the National Coordination Cell, engages Resettlement Assistance Program Service Provider Organizations (RAP SPOs) on a daily basis to determine their capacity to receive incoming GARs and to help RAP SPOs plan for future arrivals.

Based on the information the Matching Centre has, the analyst knows there is capacity in Halifax, and that there are appropriate services for the child with the learning disability. The Matching Centre analyst now informs the IRCC regional office in Canada that the family will be destined to Halifax. The final decision to resettle Tarek, Rasha and the children in Halifax is made by the Matching Centre.

The Matching Centre electronically transfers the file, which now includes the family’s destination, to the visa office. The visa office finalises the medical and security screening, issues the visas to the family, and informs the IOM of the final decision.

The IOM then makes travel arrangements for the family, which includes arriving in either Toronto Pearson International Airport or Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, then transiting to Halifax. The flight time and arrival information is shared with the Matching Centre, which reviews the file once more to ensure all medical and other needs are accounted for. The IOM informs Tarek and Rasha that they will be resettled in Halifax.

The Matching Centre informs the local IRCC office, the port of entry and the Canada Border Services Agency who will receive them at the airport, and the local RAP SPO, via the IRCC liaison officer on the ground in Halifax. The RAP SPO will help the family in their first few weeks and months (see RAP SPO backgrounder for more information). Where the services exist, the Matching Centre also informs the welcoming service provider that is located in the airport.

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