Under Canadian immigration law, at least five Canadian citizens or permanent residents may decide to come together to form a group (known as a group of five) in order to sponsor refugees outside of Canada. While it may sound straightforward for Canadians to sponsor someone who is already a refugee in another country, there are important factors to address that are essential to a group of five sponsorship applications. Understanding financial responsibility, refugee eligibility and settlement details are crucial for the success of any refugee sponsorship. We’re here to outline the basics in forming a group of five sponsorship.
Who qualifies as a refugee?
Overseas people and their family members must already have refugee status recognized by the UNHCR or the government for the state or country they are currently seeking asylum. If the refugees are not already accepted as refugees – they cannot be sponsored. Furthermore, the refugee(s) must meet the Canadian legal requirements of either a Convention refugee abroad class or country of asylum class. Other eligibility criteria include (but not limited to) assessing whether the refugee is admissible to Canada or whether they can integrate in their current country of refuge. In addition, the refugee cannot safely return to their country of citizenship (the country they fled). The principal refugee and their family members if applicable must include a copy of their refugee status documents with the application. We recommend reaching out to a refugee sponsorship training program (RSTP) office for verification of refugee status prior to starting an application.
Who qualifies as a sponsor?
At least five Canadian citizens or permanent residents in Canada must form a group (hence, group of five) in order to sponsor a refugee and their family members to come to Canada. As sponsors, the group must sign and commit towards supporting the sponsored refugee(s) for at least twelve months from the date of their entry to Canada. In addition, the group members should be living in the expected community where the refugee(s) will live – or elect representatives in the community of settlement. All group members must pass background eligibility checks prior to filing an application.
What is the financial requirement to sponsor a refugee?
As a sponsor group, you commit to financially supporting the refugee(s) for at least twelve months from date of arrival to Canada, or until the refugee becomes self-sufficient, whatever comes first. This means your sponsorship application must prove you have enough funds to support them. First and foremost, the funds cannot come from the overseas refugee(s). Current policy suggests at least three group members contribute financially towards the sponsorship application. There are different ways to contribute finances such as each group member (who is contributing money) providing evidence they have sufficient financial resources available based on their income and family size. Alternatively, the group can place a total amount of funds in a trusted bank account. Immigration Canada has specific documents and requirements to justify meeting the minimum financial requirements. These documents can update at any time and require proper attention to detail or your application could be delayed, returned or refused.
The sponsoring group must make sure they can provide sufficient funds at time of application. The minimum amount of funds is roughly determined based on current provincial social assistance rates for twelve months in addition to start-up costs. Financial contributions will differ depending on the refugee family size. For example, a family can include the principal applicant, their spouse or common-law partner and any dependent children who are under 22 years of age when the application is submitted. When there are more family members, this means an increase in funds necessary to support them. In addition, funds can decrease depending if you already have in kind donations available (ie. house, beds, linens, household furniture, clothing, etc). In order to accurately calculate how much money you require to sponsor a refugee family, we recommend seeking an expert to consult with your situation.
What is a sponsor’s responsibility?
All sponsorship group members must agree to provide the refugees with emotional support, place to live, clothing, food, healthcare, schooling and English/French courses, job searching, banking, transportation and other settlement support for at least a twelve month period from the date of arrival. The settlement plan is crucial in detailing how each group member can contribute and will be mandatory to include with your application.
How can I start the process?
As a sponsor, it is in your best interests to already have at least five Canadians in mind prior to starting a group of five sponsorship. In addition, the person you are thinking of sponsoring must already be a refugee (or have protected status) in their country of refuge.