Granted, it will be a fairly large nutshell, but in terms of what happens first and who does what, this article will provide you with a run-down of the process from initial inquiries to resettlement.
If you wonder whether sponsorship is something that your church, or perhaps a group of churches in your community could initiate, the first thing to do is to call a meeting and invite anyone who is interested or has questions to attend. We have several documents that walk a group through the responsibilities of sponsorship, how to establish a core team, different types of sponsorships, and projected cost tables.
If there is enough interest among that first gathering for at least 5 people to commit to being part of a core team for the time of preparation, and the year of resettlement, then you are ready to move forward.
This is the time to contact our SAH representatives, Tim and Susan in our AGC Compassion & Justice office and they will provide you with all the necessary documents and instructions to get started:
- how to structure a sponsorship committee
- an estimated budget can be calculated,
- further clarity on the types of sponsorship so your group can make an informed choice,
- how to ensure the church will be able to issue receipts for money given specifically for refugee sponsorship ministry,
- how to identify a refugee family for sponsorship,
- pre- and post-arrival responsibilities,
- and any other questions you have.
The responsibilities of the sponsoring church will vary depending on the type of sponsorship chosen. The three types of sponsorship are:
Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR)
- The church names the refugee they would like to sponsor.
- The church is responsible to provide the full cost of resettlement (i.e. approx. $50K for a family of 5).
- Churches can collaborate with co-sponsors in their community and/or with people in other parts of the world to provide financial support or the team of 5.
- After an application is submitted, there is typically a 3 - 5 year processing time before newcomers arrive.
- The church (and co-sponsors if applicable) is responsible for 12 months of settlement support - both financial & non-financial.
Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR)
- The church chooses refugees from a pool of names provided by the Canadian government.
- The church is responsible to raise approximately 60% of the resettlement costs. Our government covers 6 months of their monthly support. (Hence the “blended” part of the name.)
- After an application is submitted, wait times are typically 1 – 4 months before newcomers arrive.
- The church is responsible for all start-up costs, 6 months of financial support and 12 months of non-financial settlement support.
Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS)
- The church chooses refugees or newcomers from a pool of names provided by the Canadian government.
- The financial responsibilities to resettle a JAS case are completely covered by our government.
- After an application is submitted, wait times are typically 1 - 4 months before newcomers arrive. Some JAS cases have already arrived in Canada.
- The church is responsible to provide a welcoming environment, help to integrate, help to access services for their needs, give moral and emotional support.
- The church is responsible for 12 – 24 months of community & emotional support; up to 36 months in exceptional circumstances.
- JAS sponsorships are only available to SAHs and their CGs. Community Sponsors & Groups of Five are not eligible to take these.
The SAH will always help you fill out the appropriate forms for both your group and the family overseas before sending them off to Ottawa on your behalf. It is usually 6 – 8 weeks before we hear back from the Resettlement Operations Centre in Ottawa (ROC-O) to know if the sponsor portion of the application is approved. Once approved, the file sent to the appropriate Canadian visa office overseas. Eventually the family will be called for their interview, medical & security checks, and will be told if they have been approved for resettlement to Canada. The Notice of Arrival (NAT) will usually arrive about 2 weeks before you will meet the family at the airport. Meanwhile…
Preparation for Arrival
This part of the sponsorship process can take just a few or several months depending on the type of sponsorship chosen. BVOR and JAS sponsorships will only have a few weeks in this stage: PSRs will take months at least, and sometimes years (the SAH will advise you before submitting the application on expected wait times). During this time, a church will raise funds, take training, collect household goods, research medical, dental, language classes, find temporary housing if needed, find permanent housing, and other settlement resources. This is also the time for your group to take all the required training and learn about the family’s culture and country of origin.
Friendship through Facebook, WhatsApp, or Skype with the family overseas can flourish during this time of waiting. Your conversations and interest in them and their situation, will bring hope while they wait. By keeping in touch with them, you can also help them prepare once they are contacted by a visa officer with a date for their interview. If they successfully pass their interview and medical/security checks, you will be sent a Notice of Arrival. That will give you the date and time to meet them at the airport.
Once you have received the NAT, that will be the time to secure permanent housing and to move in all the household goods to set up a home for the family. Since it sometimes takes more time to find permanent housing than you will have, or arrival may be mid-month, it is imperative that temporary housing be planned. This could be someone’s suite, a hotel room, Air bnb, etc.
There are excellent resources available outlining necessary steps for the first few weeks after arrival, and the first few months. There will be many hours spent together as you help this family adjust to life in Canada. From the beginning, you will want to include intentional conversations about life after month 12, when the family will be supporting themselves and will be well on their way to being settled in their new life here in Canada.