All About Refugees

Who is a Refugee?

No one is a refugee by choice and anyone could become a refugee. At the end of 2018 there were 70.8 million forcibly displaced people including 25.9 million refugees.1

A refugee is someone who has a well founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and due to that fear is unable or unwilling to return.

The World’s Response to Refugees

The international community helps refugees to find lasting, or durable, solutions to refugee situations. The three durable solutions are:

  1. Voluntary repatriation
  2. Local integration in the asylum country
  3. Resettlement in a third country

Canada’s Response to Refugees

The 1976 Immigration Act was a milestone in Canada’s response to refugees, establishing refugees as a class separate from immigrants; soon after Canadians responded to The Boat People crisis of the late 70s and early 80s which allowed ordinary people from across the country to assist these refugees through private sponsorship.

History of the PSR Program

Through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Program over 327,000 refugees, who would not have otherwise been able to come to Canada, were resettled between 1979 and 2018. Canada will welcome 59,000 privately sponsored refugees between 2019 and 2021.2   Canada is one of the few countries in the world that annually offers resettlement places to thousands of government-sponsored refugees.

Additionally, Canada’s private sponsorship program is unique as it allows private groups across Canada to sponsor qualifying refugees above the government numbers.

What is the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program?

The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (PSR) is a partnership program administered by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the people of Canada to extend Canada’s capacity to resettle refugees from abroad.

Who Can Be Sponsored?

Refugees who would qualify under the Convention Refugees Abroad and/or members of the Country of Asylum Class (also known as the Humanitarian Protected Persons Abroad classes) may be sponsored.

A group may submit an undertaking to sponsor a particular refugee(s) from abroad (sponsor-referred refugee), a Blended Visa Office-referred (BVOR) refugee or, if a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH), can refer to IRCC’s website for a Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS).

Who Can Sponsor a Refugee?

There are three ways in which refugees can be sponsored through PSR:

  1. Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) and their Constituent Groups (CGs)
  2. Groups of Five
  3. Community Sponsor

What Responsibilities Do Sponsors Have?

The sponsoring group is responsible for creating a settlement plan which outlines their plan for reception, care, lodging and settlement assistance for the sponsored refugees within the community of resettlement.

It is expected that at the time of application the sponsor will be able to prove, if required, financial resources for the 12 month sponsorship period.

What Is The Sponsorship Process?

After a PSR application is accepted by ROC-O, a visa officer will interview the applicant overseas. If accepted, the refugee will undergo a medical check while criminality and security checks are completed. BVOR refugees are referred by the UNHCR and are already approved by the Canadian government. BVOR refugees will arrive within 6 to 12 weeks of the receipt of the group’s application.

Generally the processing times of PSR cases vary; this is dependent on whether the person is a sponsor-referred or visa office-referred refugee, which country the person is coming from and the complexity of his or her immigration application. As well it should be noted that many visa posts have long processing times due to a large number of unprocessed cases.

For more information on the processing times of individual visa posts visit the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website at:

1 UNHCR Global Trends 2010