Sponsorship Disputes & Breakdowns

What are sponsorship disputes?

Disagreements or misunderstandings between sponsors and newcomers may naturally arise during the course of a sponsorship. Sponsorship disputes can range from disagreements over the terms of the sponsorship, to differences of opinions on various issues. Fortunately, sponsorship disputes do not always result in sponsorship breakdowns.

Sponsorship disputes may be resolved or improved by following the tips about avoiding disputes, breakdowns and defaults found on page 4 of this document. The Resettlement Services Assurance Team (RSAT) of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) may also assist with sponsorship disputes that relate to settlement and/or financial support issues that arise during the sponsorship period. The RSAT can intervene in a sponsorship dispute when:

  • One or both parties to the dispute have requested IRCC intervention; or,
  • An internal resolution has not remedied the situation; or,
  • The newcomer has approached a social services agency during the sponsorship period, which has approached IRCC to inquire about the case; or,
  • A third party reports that there is a sponsorship dispute.

What are sponsorship breakdowns?

A sponsorship breakdown is an official declaration that an “irreparable failure” to meet the sponsorship arrangement has occurred between the sponsors and the newcomers they have sponsored. Responsibility for the breakdown may rest with the refugee or with the sponsoring group, or it may not be attributable to either party. In cases of sponsorship breakdowns, IRCC will issue a formal notice of the breakdown in the form of the Declaration of Sponsorship Breakdown, ending the sponsor’s responsibility to the newcomers. This official notice will be provided to both the sponsors and to the newcomers. Once a sponsorship breakdown has occurred, there is no way to reinstate the sponsorship.

What are sponsorship defaults?

A sponsorship default will be declared if the sponsoring group has not met the financial or non-financial obligations of the sponsorship and is therefore responsible for the breakdown. A sponsorship default refers to a breach of the contractual obligations of the Sponsorship Undertaking itself, or a failure to fulfill a financial or non-financial obligation associated with the Undertaking (form IMM 5373 for SAHs, IMM 5670 for G5s, or IMM 5663 for CSs) and/or the SAH’s Sponsorship Agreement. In order to avoid a sponsorship default, it is important that sponsors fulfill all financial and non-financial responsibilities unless an official sponsorship breakdown has been declared by IRCC.

Why do sponsorship breakdowns occur?

There are several reasons that a sponsorship breakdown may occur, including:

  • There is an unresolvable dispute, such as an interpersonal conflict, unrealistic expectations, or disagreements about the level of support that is provided to the newcomer.
  • The terms of sponsorship cannot be fulfilled because of a change in the newcomer’s personal situation. Some examples of this are:
    • Marital separation or divorce;
    • Secondary migration, or in other words, the newcomer has moved out of the intendedcommunity of settlement, and sponsors will not or cannot continue to support thenewcomer in the new community.
  • The sponsors are not fulfilling their obligation of providing financial and/or non-financial,including settlement support.

What should be done if there is a sponsorship dispute or breakdown?

If a dispute has escalated to the point of being irresolvable between parties, and a sponsorship breakdown seems imminent, either the sponsor or the newcomer should contact IRCC by emailing the RSAT at IRCC.PSRCaseReview-RevuedecasPSR.IRCC@cic.gc.ca

  1. Once the RSAT is notified of the dispute RSAT will assess the seriousness of the situation anddetermine if IRCC intervention is necessary. Theymay ask the sponsors to resolve the issues withoutbecoming directly involved.
  2. If IRCC involvement is necessary, an RSAT Officer will attempt to assist the parties in resolving thedispute.
  3. An RSAT Officer may facilitate a meeting with all parties. During this process, the Officer will try togather information on how much financial and settlement support are being given. If a solution is notfound, IRCC will act as the final decision-maker regarding next steps.
  4. During this process (which can take weeks), if IRCC finds that the newcomer requires financialsupport urgently, it is possible that they may provide emergency funds or refer the newcomer tosocial assistance.
  5. If a breakdown has been declared, IRCC will determine which party is primarily responsible. Theresponsibility for a sponsorship breakdown may rest with the sponsors, the newcomers, IRCC, ornone of the parties. If the sponsoring group is determined to be responsible, IRCC will assess if theyshould be found to be in default of the sponsorship. This assessment will include considering if thesponsors have attempted to rectify the situation.

The sponsoring group is required to continue to carry out their sponsorship responsibilities throughout the duration of the conflict, until a sponsorship breakdown is officially declared.

In cases involving a Constituent Group (CG) or a co-sponsor to a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH), IRCC will notify the SAH of the dispute so they can attempt to resolve it internally, as they are ultimate responsible for the sponsorship. In some cases, the SAH may consider transferring responsibility for the sponsorship to another CG, or taking on the responsibility itself. The SAH may also consider requesting another SAH to take over the sponsorship for the remainder of the sponsorship period.

If a breakdown has been declared, the sponsor may attempt to find a replacement sponsor for the newcomers. If a new sponsoring group is not found:

  • Newcomers will be provided with a Declaration of Sponsorship Breakdown and referred to theprovincial social assistance authority.

In exceptional circumstances, newcomers sponsored by a SAH may be referred to RAP income support, until they become self-supporting or the sponsorship term comes to an end, whichever comes first. RAP entitlements are given in situations of sponsorship breakdown only rarely, and are considered on a case by case basis.

What are the consequences of sponsorship breakdowns for newcomers?

If it is determined by IRCC that the sponsoring group was not responsible for the breakdown, it is possible that the newcomer will not receive further assistance from a sponsoring group in Canada or financial assistance from IRCC. The newcomer would however be able to apply for social assistance and would still be eligible for all IRCC-funded settlement services.

What are the consequences of sponsorship breakdowns for sponsors?

If the sponsoring group is not responsible for the breakdown, the Declaration of Sponsorship Breakdown will note a “declaration of no-fault” breakdown and no consequences to the sponsoring group will follow. The sponsoring group will not be declared responsible for the breakdown if it is found that:

  • It continues to deliver on its sponsorship obligations;
  • Unforeseen circumstances affected the sponsoring group’s capacity to fulfill obligationsand anothergroup has been successfully located to fill in, or reasonable efforts have been made by thesponsoring group to locate a new sponsor;
  • The obligations of the sponsorship are not being fulfilled due to reasons beyond the sponsor’scontrol (for example, the newcomer voluntarily moves out of the original community ofresettlement, not due to any dispute) and reasonable efforts have been made by the sponsoringgroup to locate a new sponsor.

A sponsorship default will be declared if the sponsoring group has been found to be responsible for the breakdown, and is unwilling to attempt to rectify the problem. The consequences of a sponsorship default may include:

  • Not being permitted to submit further sponsorships until the default isresolved.
  • For SAHs, their Sponsorship Agreement may be impacted and may be placed into probationarystatus or be suspended, or cancelled.
  • IRCC may conclude that the sponsoring group is unable to fulfill its obligations to cases stilloverseas, and make a recommendation to revoke the sponsorship approval of the group’soutstanding cases. IRCC may monitor the sponsoring group’s current sponsorships inCanada thatare still within the one year sponsorship period to ensure that adequate financial and settlementsupport are being provided.

A default ends when:

  • The group has reimbursed the government or party concerned, in full or in accordance with anagreement with that government, for amounts paid by the government and/or
  • An IRCC officer determines that the sponsoring group has met the necessary obligations.
    Defaults may occur for either the entire sponsoring group, or an individual party to the sponsorship.More information about ending default status can be found in subsection 153(4) of the Immigrationand Refugee Protection Regulations.

How can sponsorship disputes, breakdowns, and defaults be avoided?

It is always best to try to avoid sponsorship disputes altogether. The following are important considerations in preventing and managing disputes:

  • Preparedness: Sponsoring groups should be properly trained and equipped for sponsorship.SAHs are responsible for training their CGs. Groups of 5, Community Sponsors, SAHs, CGsand co- sponsors can access a wealth of resources and training opportunities through theRefugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP) website (www.rstp.ca).
  • Communication: Clear, consistent and effective communication is a vital component tosetting realistic expectations. This includes providing a thorough orientation to newcomersshortly after arrival, and continuing communication throughout the duration of the sponsorship.When a language barrier exists, make sure that communication takes place throughinterpreters that speak the same dialect as the newcomer, and ask the interpreters tocommunicate the correct information without adding or omitting content.
  • Managing expectations: Proactively reflecting on sponsor and sponsoring groupexpectations, and possible newcomer expectations is a very helpful process. It can help toassess whether these expectations are “realistic”. Not having expectations at all, or havingonly “realistic” expectations mayminimize interpersonal conflict or feelings of resentment andfrustration arising from unrealistic expectations, which reduces the risk of sponsorshipsbreaking down. For more information on managing expectations, please refer to theinformation sheet at the following link: https://www.rstp.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Managing-Expectations.pdf
  • Understanding: Remember that there may be a lot that you do not know about the situation,including why the other party may be reacting in a certain way. Perhaps there has beenmisinformation or simple misunderstandings that have not yet been discovered. It often helpsto remember that you may not always have the whole context. Patience and greaterunderstanding may be needed to improve communication and come to a common resolution.

Where can I find more information and support?

For more detailed information about Sponsorship Breakdowns, you can refer to the Guide to the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (Section 2.25).

If you would like assistance related to a sponsorship dispute, would like information about upcoming workshops on Managing Expectations, Power Imbalance and Sponsorship Ethics, or would like to learn more about sponsor and newcomer rights and responsibilities, sponsorship disputes, breakdowns and defaults, please contact us by emailing info@rstp.ca or calling 1-877-290-1701.