Frequently Asked Questions
The information in this section pertains specifically to Syrian refugees. Information for refugees from other countries can be found on Settlement.Org.
- What are the differences between the types of sponsorship categories?
- Where can I find a list of common acronyms?
- What will the ‘arrivals process’ look like for the Syrian refugees?
- Where can I find short-term housing?
- Will the Syrian Refugees be Permanent Residents and get their SIN processed immediately?
- Will the Syrian Refugees be eligible for OHIP immediately?
- How will OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare coverage work?
- What is the difference between IFH and OHIP and which one should the refugees apply for?
- Are sponsored refugees eligible for Settlement Services?
- Are there free Adult English as a Second Language (ESL) programs available?
- Will the children get ESL instruction in school?
- What does ‘social support requirements’ mean for sponsors?
- What social benefits are sponsored refugees entitled to?
- Where can I find forms for the social benefits and programs?
- Where can I find information in Arabic?
- Where can I find an Arabic interpreter?
- How can the Syrian refugees get their documents translated?
- How do I find a place of worship?
- What if the refugees we sponsor can't find work to support themselves?
- What are the housing rights for tenants in Ontario?
- What programs are there for refugees’ family members to come to Canada?
- The refugees I am sponsoring have experienced discrimination/hate crime. What can I do?
- How do I identify/confirm that a charity or fundraiser is legitimate?
- How do I report a fundraising/charity scam?
- Is the money I spend sponsoring a refugee tax-deductible?
- Are sponsored refugees allowed to move within Canada?
Government-assisted refugees (GARs) are those supported directly by the Government of Canada for the duration of their sponsorship. Canada funds organizations as part of the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) to provide immediate and essential support services to refugees on their arrival in Canada to help them settle and integrate into life in Canada.
Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program refugees are referred directly by the UNHCR. The Government of Canada and the Private Sponsors share the financial support and private sponsors provide up to a year of social and emotional support. Refugees are also covered under the Interim Federal Health (IFH) Program for the duration of the sponsorship, in addition to provincial health coverage.
With Privately Sponsored Refugees, sponsors provide financial and emotional support for the refugees for the duration of the sponsorship. This includes help for housing, clothing and food.
In the Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS) program, the Government of Canada sometimes partners with organizations to resettle refugees with special needs who may need more support than other refugees in order to settle into Canada. These special needs may arise due to:
- trauma from violence or torture,
- medical disabilities,
- the effects of systemic discrimination, or
- a large number of family members.
- Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR),
- Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS),
- Government Assisted Refugees (GARs)
- Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSRs)
- Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)
- Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP)
- Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB)
- Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB)
- Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
(new name) Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
- Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH)
- English as a Second Language (ESL)
- Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC)
For a full list of acronyms see the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program website.
Newly arriving Syrian refugees under the current #WelcomeRefugees program will be processed through the new receiving areas at either Toronto or Montreal's International Airports. Upon arrival all refugees will be welcomed and processed by a Canada by Border Services Officers (BSO) who will confirm their identity, and process their customs and immigration inspections. This BSO will also issue the Interim Federal Health (IFH) Program certificates to help facilitate immediate medical coverage. The new receiving areas will also have stations where immigration photos will be taken for identification documents.
After completing this process, the newly arrived refugees will be permanent residents of Canada. They will continue onward to the Welcome Centre at their respective airport. These areas include food, play areas for children and prayer rooms. At the centre they will receive winter clothing, be issued a Social Insurance Number (SIN). They will then be transported to a local hotel for an overnight stay to rest and eat before they continue to their destination communities.
This information is from the Government of Canada's backgrounder – Airport Receiving areas and Welcome Centres.
You can find information on short-term accommodation options in the short-term housing article on Settlement.Org.
You may also want to consider WeHostRefugees.org, a website where volunteers list available accommodation. This is a volunteer run site and while they do their best to match hosts with those needing space, you should be mindful of the needs and vulnerable nature of the family you are assisting. Another option if you have funds available would be Airbnb and similar services for interim housing.
Yes. After completing the border services process upon arrival at a Canadian Port of Entry (Toronto or Montreal in the case of Syrians), the refugees will be permanent residents of Canada and will continue onto a welcome centre. Refugees arriving at the welcome centre will receive winter clothing, and be issued their Social Insurance Number (SIN).
All children and youth aged 24 and under who have OHIP coverage will automatically be enrolled in OHIP+. OHIP+ coverage will stop on an individual’s twenty-fifth birthday. The new OHIP+ program will cover all drugs and drug products currently reimbursed through the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) program. This includes more than 4,400 drug products listed on the ODB Formulary/Comparative Drug Index and additional drugs eligible for funding through the Exceptional Access Program (EAP).
This will include medications to treat:
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- infections (e.g. antibiotics)
- diabetes (including test strips)
- reproductive health (e.g. oral contraceptives)
- some childhood cancers and rare diseases
Starting January 1, 2018, if a child or youth aged 24 or under requires an eligible medication, they or their caregiver can bring their valid prescription and health card number to a pharmacy and will receive that medication at no cost. Enrollment in OHIP+ will be automatic for children and youth with OHIP eligibility. There will be no out of pocket costs (i.e. deductibles or co-payments).
In general, resettled refugees are eligible for basic health coverage from the province or territory of residence upon arrival in Canada.
For all Syrian refugees, the IFHP will provide basic coverage during any waiting periods required by the province or territory they are settling in, or during any time where the refugee has not yet applied for or been issued their provincial/territorial health coverage.
Once they receive health insurance from the province or territory that they settle in, the IFHP will continue to provide coverage for supplemental services, like dental and vision care, and prescription drugs for up to one year.
The certificate that IFHP beneficiaries need to show to health-care providers each time they seek services are being given to Syrian refugees by Canada Border Services Agency officers upon their arrival in Canada or at an inland IRCC office shortly after arrival. An information sheet is also being provided.
For information about the Ontario Health Card and how to apply for it, you can read this factsheet from ServiceOntario.
There are many different types of Adult English as a Second Language (ESL) programs in Ontario. Newcomers can take English classes through their local school board or settlement agency. A settlement worker can help you find the right class.
Sponsorship is a big responsibility. Among other items, sponsors are responsible for the basic needs of refugees during the sponsorship period (usually a year) and for providing settlement support to the refugee(s). To find a detailed list of the requirements visit the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program’s Overview of Sponsorship Responsibilities webpage.
Syrian refugees are covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) and are eligible for the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP). In addition, they may be eligible for many other benefits including:
- Canada Child Tax Benefit
- National Child Benefit Supplement
- Ontario Child Benefit
- Universal Child Care Benefit
- Child Disability Benefit
- HST credit
Sponsored refugees are not eligible for Ontario Works benefits or subsidized housing during the period of sponsorship.
Some community agencies and private businesses offer interpretation services. Contact 2-1-1 Ontario to find an interpretation service in your area. Unless you are able to find a volunteer, most trained interpreters charge fees.
Make sure that the interpreter that you choose if respectful of refugees and understands the importance of sensitivity and confidentiality. You may also want to consider how gender and ethnic background could affect the comfort level of refugees.
Depending on the type of document, a professional or certified translator may be needed. You can find a translator in the yellow pages, through a community agency or through the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario. For more information on this topic see the How do I get my documents translated? article from Settlement.org.
A place of worship can be an important source of support for newcomers. For example, they can find out where to find food that meets their religious dietary needs, stay connected to their your culture and traditions and develop a social support system.
You can find a place of worship by:
- Looking in local or ethnocultural media.
- Contacting an ethnocultural organization.
- Talking to people in the Syrian community.
Contacting a settlement agency.
Finding meaningful employment can be difficult for newcomers, especially if they have low language skills. Many settlement agencies offer language programs and other specialize in supporting job-seekers who are new to Canada. You can find an agency in your community through Settlement.Org’s Services Near Me interactive map.
There are also social assistance programs available that newcomers may be eligible for such as Employment Insurance, Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program. To find out about the eligible criteria and for information on how to apply, visit Settlement.org, the Service Canada website or the ServiceOntario website.
Every year, many newcomers are victims of housing scams or have bad experiences with landlords who do not respect tenancy laws. Some landlords charge exorbitant deposits, require many months’ rent payment up-front or do not accept applicants who are retired or on social assistance. These actions are not allowed. To learn about Tenants’ rights, see the Tenant Rights and Responsibilities of Settlement.org or contact the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).
Refugees (both Government-Assisted and Privately Sponsored) can apply to sponsor immediate family members under the One Year Window opportunity provision. This program is for refugees who have been in Canada for less than a year and are sponsoring a spouse or common-law partner, dependent children, and children of dependent children. The sponsor group is also responsible for the costs of supporting family members who have come to Canada through this program. More information is available from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website.
For information on other sponsorship programs, visit Settlement.Org or the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.
If the refugee(s) you are sponsoring have been attacked, contact your local police immediately. If they have been discriminated against in one of the social areas protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code, you can contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre for help filing a claim with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
To check if a charity if legitimate, you can look them up on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Charities Listings webpage. All charities that are registered are listed on this site along with their registered charity number. You can also call the Canada Revenue Agency toll free at 1-877-442-2899.
It is a good idea to research the charity you donate to and to ask for a tax receipt.
Within the context of the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program, money given to a charity in support of its private refugee sponsorship program is eligible for a tax receipt if certain criteria apply. You can read more about what is considered a gift for tax purposes in this information brochure from the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program.
As Permanent Residents (PRs), sponsored refugees have mobility rights within Canada. However, it can be complicated if sponsored refugees want to live in a part of Canada that is far from where the sponsors live as they will not be able to provide as much in-person support. Ultimately, the sponsor group is responsible for supporting the refugee(s) no matter where they decide to live in Canada.