How we process privately sponsored refugee applications

The Government of Canada sets the number of applications that can be processed in a given year in the Immigration Levels Plan. We generally process applications on a first-in, first-out basis.

An application to resettle a privately sponsored refugee to Canada has 2 parts:

  1. sponsorship part
  2. refugee part

Both are sent to the Resettlement Operations Centre in Ottawa (ROC-O) to make sure it’s complete.

If the application is complete, we review both parts before the refugee can be approved for resettlement. First,

  • the sponsorship part of the application is reviewed at the ROC-O. Then, if it is approved, we send
  • the refugee part for review to one of our migration offices overseas.

Refugees who are resettling in Quebec follow a slightly different process because the Quebec government must also approve the application.

Processing time

The processing time starts when we receive a complete application at the ROC-O. The processing time ends when either:

  • The sponsorship part of the application is refused or withdrawn.
  • We make a final decision on the refugee part of the application.

The processing times can change depending on:

  • the number of applications to be reviewed
  • the number of refugees we can welcome in a given year (see the Immigration Levels Plan)
  • the security situation in the area where the refugee is living prior to resettlement
  • our ability to communicate with the refugee
  • how long it takes to complete the medical exam and security screening
  • the refugee’s family profile (family size and age of family members may impact processing time of security screening and medical exams)
  • whether dependants are added to the application during processing
  • whether the refugee needs an exit permit to leave the country they are in
  • other barriers that cannot be controlled or anticipated

Application steps

Step 1: We review the sponsorship part of the application at ROC-O


Sponsors choose the refugee or refugees they want to sponsor and submit an application. Each application includes both a part for the sponsor to complete and a part for the refugee to complete.

Sponsorship application review

  1. We put the application in a queue based on the date we receive it.
  2. We make sure the application is complete.

    If an application is incomplete, we return it to the sponsor. The sponsor needs to submit a new, complete application.

  3. Once we make a decision on the sponsorship part of the application, we send the sponsor and refugee an email with the decision and explanations.
  4. If we approve the sponsorship part, we send the full application to one of our migration offices.

Step 2: We review the refugee application at one of our migration offices

Refugee application review

We generally process refugee applications in the order we receive them at the migration office.

Interview with the refugee or refugees

  1. When we start processing the refugee part of the application, we schedule an interview with the refugee. We also tell the sponsor when the interview is scheduled.
  2. One of our migration officers interviews the refugee to check if they meet the eligibility criteria for resettlement to Canada.
  3. Our officer asks questions to

    • confirm the refugee’s identity and where they live
    • find out why protection is needed
    • make sure the refugee is in need of resettlement (for example, whether they could safely return home or stay where they are)
    • find out if there are any special needs (for example, medical needs)

    In many cases, we tell refugees in person if they pass the eligibility criteria.

    We also collect biometric data such as digital photographs and fingerprints.

  4. If the refugee passes the eligibility criteria, they must then pass admissibility screening.

    If the refugee fails the eligibility criteria, they have the opportunity to respond to our concerns before we make a final decision.

Admissibility screening

  1. Medical exams

    We send the refugee instructions on how to get a medical exam with an approved panel physician. These exams make sure there is no health risk to Canadians. Medical exams include a health exam, laboratory tests and an X-ray. Refugees should only schedule a medical exam after we tell them to get one.

    If the refugee doesn’t pass the medical exam, we tell them the results. If the health condition is likely to cause a danger to public health (for example if they have active tuberculosis) we ask the refugee to get medical treatment before we make a final decision.

  2. Criminal background checks and security exams

    We do security screenings and criminal background checks to make sure there aren’t any safety or security risk to Canadians. We work with immigration, law enforcement and security authorities to confirm the refugee

    • hasn’t committed serious crimes
    • isn’t a safety or security risk to Canada
    • hasn’t committed identity fraud

    If the refugee fails the criminality and security exam, they have the opportunity to respond to our concerns before we make a final decision.

Final decision

  1. If we approve the refugee for resettlement, we issue a visa. If we refuse the refugee, we send both the refugee and sponsor a letter with an explanation.

    After we issue the visa, it may take time to arrange exit permits when the local authorities need them.

  2. We send the sponsor a Notice of Approval to tell them the refugee will arrive soon. We send the Notice of Approval about 4 to 10 weeks before the refugee leaves the country.
  3. We then send the International Organization for Migration a request to book transportation, deliver orientation sessions about Canada, and arrange for medical escorts, if needed. If refugees can’t afford the cost of their travel to Canada, we give them a loan to cover the cost.
  4. We send the sponsor a Notification of Arrival Transmission with travel details, about 10 days before the refugee arrives in Canada.

Departure for Canada

  1. The refugee leaves for Canada. The sponsor greets them at the airport, at their final destination.
  2. Resettled refugees become permanent residents once border officials authorize them at the port of entry in Canada.

Privately sponsored refugees can access free settlement services that we fund. These services can help newcomers feel at home in Canada more quickly. Learn more.

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