Answers to common questions regarding refugee sponsorship, including eligibility, the safe third country agreement, and different types of sponsorships.

What Is a SAH?

A number of organizations have signed sponsorship agreements with the Government of Canada to help support refugees from abroad when they resettle in Canada. These organizations, including The United Church of Canada, are known as Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH). They can sponsor refugees themselves or work with others in the community to sponsor refugees. Most sponsorship agreement holders are religious, ethnic, community, or service organizations.

Under the church's Sponsorship Agreement, the United Church works with congregations/pastoral charges that form a constituent group (CG) to sponsor refugees.

Who Can Be Sponsored?

Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act specifies who may apply for protection as a refugee. The person must apply from outside of Canada and, in brief, they must be unable to live in their home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution, the effects of civil war or armed conflict, or the ongoing denial of their basic human rights. There are various types of refugee sponsorship, described below.

What Is the Safe Third Country Agreement?

Canada has an agreement with the United States whereby people who want to make a refugee claim must do so in the first safe country they arrive in. This means that if you enter Canada at a land border from the United States, you cannot make a refugee claim in Canada (unless an exception applies, for example, if you have family in Canada).

Can We Sponsor a Refugee?

Your group can sponsor a refugee/family if the Sponsorship Agreement Holder has available allocations, or spots. Congregations in a geographic area can team up to co-sponsor a refugee.

To initiate the process:

  • Review the material on this website carefully.
  • Contact the Refugee Advisor ( ) at the General Council Office to inquire if there are available refugee allocations. The General Council Office's role is to facilitate the sponsorship process for sponsor and refugee.

What Are the Different Types of Sponsorship?

Visa Office Referrals (VOR)

In a Visa Office Referral, the refugee has already been identified as in need of protection by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) (or another referral organization overseas) and the Canadian visa office abroad, but requires a sponsor in Canada through congregations, organizations, or groups.

Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Program

In a private sponsorship, the sponsoring group has direct knowledge of particular refugees or families overseas who have been brought to its attention. People who qualify as refugees under the following two classes may be sponsored under the PSR Program:

  • The Convention Refugee Abroad Class: are outside their home country or the country they normally live in; and are not able to return because of a well-founded read or persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a social group, such as women or people of a particular sexual orientation
  • The Country of Asylum Class: are outside their home country, or they country they normally live in; and have been seriously affected by civil war or armed conflict, or have been denied basic human rights on an ongoing basis 

It is important to consider the refugees' personal stories and particular circumstances before making the commitment to sponsor. The following situations are common:

  •  The family in Canada has all the funds and the group serves as a co-sponsor.
  •  The Canadian family has no funds and the sponsoring group assumes financial responsibility.
  •  The Canadian family and the group jointly contribute funds and form a co-sponsorship.

Blended Visa-Office Referred (VOR) Initiative

The Blended VOR Initiative is designed to resettle refugees identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and submitted to Canadian visa offices abroad. It is referred to as a "blended" program because it is a cost-sharing arrangement whereby Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the constituent group of The United Church of Canada both contribute to financially supporting the refugees.

How does the "blended" model work? Refugees resettled under the Blended VOR Initiative will receive income support during the first 6 months after their arrival through the federal government's Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP). They are also fully covered under the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) for a full 12 months in addition to provincial health coverage. Sponsors will be responsible for the remaining 6 months of financial support. The SAH and its sponsoring group also have the responsibility to provide settlement and emotional support for the refugees for the 12-month sponsorship term.

Joint Assistance Sponsorships (JAS)

IRCC sometimes partners with organizations to resettle refugees with special needs. Refugees with special needs may need more support than other refugees in order to settle in Canada. The Joint Assistance Sponsorships program is for more vulnerable refugees. Refugees receive support from the government and a private sponsor for up to 24 months, depending on the case. In a few cases, the private sponsor may provide support for up to 36 months. JAS refugees get income support from the Government of Canada for food, shelter, clothing, and basic household goods.

LGBTIQ2+ Sponsorships

LGBTIQ2+ refugees are some of the most vulnerable refugees in the world. They suffer physical, sexual, and verbal abuse and discrimination, and many face imprisonment and death. They urgently need church sponsors that can support their journey to a new and safe life. For more information, see Sponsoring an LGBTIQ2+ Refugee.


For more information: