Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the differences between the types of sponsorship categories?
- Where can I find a list of common acronyms?
- What does the arrivals process look like for sponsored refugees?
- Where can I find short-term housing?
- Will the Refugees be Permanent Residents?
- Will the Refugees be eligible for OHIP immediately?
- How does OHIP+ drug coverage for children & youth work?
- What is the difference between IFHP and OHIP and which one should the refugees apply for?
- Are privately sponsored refugees eligible for settlement services?
- Are there free Adult English as a Second Language (ESL) programs available?
- Will the children get English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction in school?
- What does ‘social support requirements’ mean for sponsors?
- What social benefits are sponsored refugees eligible for?
- Where can I find forms for the social benefits and programs?
- Where can I find information in different languages?
- Where can I find an interpreter?
- How can the 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?
- Where can I donate gently used items?
- Are privately sponsored refugee families with children eligible for a child tax benefit when they arrive?
- Who can be a private sponsor?
- Can I sponsor a refugee who is already in Canada?
- Who is responsible for organizing and paying for travel to Canada?
- Can sponsors ask refugees to pay money to support themselves in Canada?
- How can I find settlement services?
- Will the children get French as a second language (FSL) instruction at school ?
- Can sponsored refugees apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) ?
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.
Fore more information, you can read this article from Welcome Ontario about the different streams to be a private sponsor.
Refugee sponsorship programs:
- Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR)
- Government Assisted Refugees (GARs)
- Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS)
- Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR)
- Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH)
- Group of Five (G5)
- Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA)
- Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)
- Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)
- Global Affairs Canada (GAC)
- Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
- Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB)
- International Organization for Migration (IOM)
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture (CCVT)
- Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR)
- Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP)
- Canada Child Benefit (CCB)
- Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP)
- Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
- Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)
- Ontario Works (OW)
- Permanent Resident Card (PR card)
- Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC)
- English as a Second Language (ESL)
- French as a Second Language (FSL)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
When sponsored refugees arrive in Canada, an officer from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) meets them. The CBSA secures the borders and ports of entry to Canada.
They must have a valid travel document (for example, a passport or a travel document issued by the Government of Canada). They must also have a Canadian permanent resident visa with them. The officer will ask to see their passport from their home country, if they have one, and other travel documents. The officer will make sure that their permanent resident visa is still valid. The expiry date is shown on the visa. It cannot be used after it expires. The government of Canada cannot extend permanent resident visas.
The officer will give the refugees their Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR). They must sign their COPR.
The officer will ask them a few questions. The questions will be similar to the ones on their Application for Permanent Residence in Canada. The officer will confirm that they are eligible to enter Canada.
The officer may not allow them to enter Canada if they give false or incomplete information at the point of entry, or if they do not satisfy the officer that they are eligible to enter Canada.
If there are no problems at the port of entry, the officer will authorize them to enter Canada as a permanent resident. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)will mail their permanent resident card to your new address in Canada.
Refugees should make sure that the Canadian address on their COPR card is correct because IRCC will send your permanent resident card to that address. If they plan to change your address in the future, or if they do not have a permanent address yet, they should give the correct address as soon as possible.
After they have been admitted to Canada, someone from a settlement organization or sponsorship group will meet them at the airport. They will bring the resettled refugees to a place where they will stay for the first few days. They will also help them to find a permanent place to live.
During Covid-19 pandemic :
Keep in mind that for sponsored refugees arriving in Canada, will be covered by the government of Canada.
For more information, please read First month of resettlement during Covid-19: What to expect?, an article from Welcome Ontario.
Yes. After completing the border services process upon arrival at a Canadian Port of Entry, the refugees will be permanent residents of Canada. They will receive their Permanent Resident Card by mail.
OHIP+ provides more than 5,000 drug products at no cost for anyone age 24 years or younger who is not already covered by a private plan. Enrollment is automatic, the youth or their caregiver can bring their a current health card number and an eligible prescription to the pharmacy to be filled. Perscriptions covered under OHIP+ will not have a co-pay or deductible.
This program covers medications used 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
- those wanting to quit smoking
- and much more
Medications available through the Exceptional Access Program may also be covered if an individual qualifies.
If you have questions about what prescription are covered, you can also speak to your local pharmacy
The short answer is both; sponsored refugees will have coverage under both programs. In general, resettled refugees are eligible for the same health coverage from the province or territory of residence upon arrival in Canada as every new permanent resident.
Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) is for resettled refugees, protected persons, refugee claimants, and victims of human trafficking. People detained by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) are also covered.
For refugees chosen to resettle in Canada, the IFHP will cover some pre-departure medical services. This can include:
- immigration medical exams and follow-up treatment of health conditions that would make someone inadmissible to Canada under paragraph 38(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
- medical support needed for safe travel
- certain health measures during a disease outbreak
According to the IRCC website, basic coverage is provided only until the refugee qualifies for provincial or territorial health insurance. Supplemental and prescription drug coverage is provided as long as they receive income support from the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP), or until the refugee is no longer under private sponsorship.
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.
In general, yes. Privately sponsored refugees arrived in Canada as permanent residents and therefore can access government-funded settlement services.
Some specific programs may have eligibility requirements.
Settlement services can include:
- information and orientation services
- help finding and keeping a job
- language training
- support to build connections in communities
To learn more about settlement services, you can read "How can I find settlement services?".
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.
You can find more information about ESL for adults on Settlement.org.
Elementary and high schools in Ontario will assess children to find out what their language-learning needs are and to place them in the right grade.
Some Ontario school boards have newcomer reception or assessment centres.
English Literacy Development (ELD) courses can help children read and write in English. ELD courses count towards their high school diploma.
Among other items, sponsors are responsible for providing refugees with financial and non-financial support during the sponsorship period (usually 12 months starting from the refugee's arrival in Canada). Their Sponsorship Agreement defines their moral, financial and legal responsibilities.
Sponsors should help the refugee(s) in their integration within the Canadian society. Social support can include :
- locating interpreters
- selecting a family physician and dentist
- assisting with applying for provincial health-care coverage
- enrolling children in school and adults in language training
- introducing newcomers to people with similar personal interests
- providing orientation with regard to everyday activities such as banking services, transportation
- helping in the search for employment
- helping understand the rights and responsibilities of permanent residents
To find a detailed list of the requirements, visit the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program’s Post-arrival duties webpage.
Sponsored 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:
Sponsored refugees are not eligible for Ontario Works benefits or subsidized housing during the period of sponsorship.
You can contact settlement services to learn more about benefits and to receive help for filling forms or applications.
Translated information is available on Settlement.org in more than 30 languages. You will find information about different settlement topics, including immigration, health, employment, education and more.
Some community agencies and private businesses offer interpretation services. Contact 2-1-1 Ontario to find an interpretation service in your area. You can also contact the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO). 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 community.
Contacting a settlement agency.
Finding meaningful employment can be difficult for many newcomers. For refugees new to Canada this can be especially challenging, they may have added barriers of language, literacy and trauma-related mental health struggles. Many settlement agencies offer language programs and others 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 community services mapping tool.
There are 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 eligiblity and application information, visit Settlement.Org, the Service Canada website or the ServiceOntario website.
Depending on where you are in Ontario, it can be difficult to find adequately sized housing. In addition to this, some people might try to take advantage of newcomers as they search for housing. Some landlords may illegally ask for extra fees, a year's rent upfront or illegal deposits. Some landlords do not accept applicants who are retired or receiving Ontario Works or other types of social assistance; this is against the law. To learn about Tenants’ rights, see the Tenant Rights and Responsibilities of Settlement.Org or contact the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).
Resettled 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. They might sponsor a spouse or common-law partner, dependent children, and children of dependent children, under certain circumstances. Family members identified under this program will be considered as dependents of the principal application, they do not need to have their own refugee status document.
Under the Sponsorship agreement, 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.
If the refugee(s) you are sponsoring have experienced intimidation, been harassed or attacked, contact your local police immediately. If they face immediate danger, call 911.
If they have been discriminated against in one of the social areas protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code (accommodation (housing), contracts, employment, goods, services and facilities, membership in unions, trade or professional associations), you can contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre for help filing a claim with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
For more information, please read “What can I do if I feel harassed or discriminated against?”, an article from Settlement.org.
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.
Scams and cybercrimes can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Fake fundraisers can contact you through the mail, email, telephone, or by knocking on your door. They often claim to represent a charitable organization or give a name that may have a similar name to a legitimate charity. To report a scam contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and file a report with your local police.
To be tax-deductible, a donation shall not be restricted to supporting a particular refugee person or family. Therefore, the money you’re spending as a private sponsor for the refugee or family you support cannot be tax-deductible.
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. Again, to be tax-deductible, a gift cannot be directed to a specific person, family or other named beneficiary.
As Permanent Residents (PRs), sponsored refugees have the right to live anywhere in Canada.
But this can create some challenges if sponsored refugees want to move to a part of Canada that is far from where their sponsors live while they are still in the sponsorship period. In that case, sponsorship groups will need to assess if they are able to continue supporting the sponsored family, with both financial and non-financial help.
If the sponsors are unable to continue providing support, it can lead to a sponsorship breakdown. The sponsorship breakdown is an official declaration issued by IRCC in cases of “irreparable failure”. It ends the sponsors’ responsibilities towards the refugees.
The sponsoring group can also try to transfer the sponsorship to another group located in the new community.
If you want to donate gently used items (furniture, clothes, … ) , you can contact 211 Ontario. They can refer you to a near-by organization that accepts donations.
You can also connect with a local Resettlement Assistance Program service provider.
Yes, sponsored refugee families with children are eligible for a child tax benefit when they get to Canada. The Canada child benefit (CCB) is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). It is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age.
Refugees should apply as soon as they arrive in Canada. It may take up to two months to process the application.
Individuals cannot be private sponsors by themselves.
They must be part of :
- A Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) or one of their Constituents Groups (CS)
- A Group of Five (G5)
- Community Sponsors
To be part of a Group of Five, you need to :
- Be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada, currently living in Canada
- Be at least 18 years old
- Live in the same community where the refugee is expected to settle, and
- Agree to give settlement support for the duration of the sponsorship (usually one year)
The following people and groups are ineligible to participate in the sponsorship of refugees:
- Any individual or groups responsible for a Sponsorship Undertaking that remains in default
- Anyone convicted in Canada of the offence of murder or an offence set out in Schedule I or Schedule II of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, regardless of whether the offence was prosecuted by indictment, if a period of five years have not passed since the completion of the sentence
- Anyone convicted of an offence outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to those offences mentioned previously, if a period of 5 years have not passed since the completion of the sentence imposed under a foreign law
- Individuals subject to a removal order
- Individuals subject to revocation proceedings under the Citizenship Act
- Anyone currently detained in any penitentiary, jail, reformatory or prison
- Individuals who are in default of any support payment obligations ordered by a court
The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program is a program that aims to resettle refugees.
To be eligible to sponsorship programs, refugees must :
- Be outside of Canada
- Meet the definition of Convention Refugee Abroad Class or Country of Asylum Class, according to the Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
- Hold a refugee status document valid for sponsorship by Groups of 5 or Community Sponsors
Therefore, it is not possible to sponsor a person who is already in Canada, no matter their status.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) organizes pre-arrival services and travel to Canada. Travel costs are covered by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) under the Immigration Loans Program (ILP), more specifically through the Transportation Loan. It means that IRCC will pay the costs directly to the IOM, but the money will be considered a loan which will need to be repaid by the loan recipient after their arrival to Canada.
Resettled refugees must start repaying the loan on the 12th month after the loan was issued. IRCC will notify the recipient of their minimum monthly payment required. They can choose to start paying earlier and more than the minimum if they wish. The duration of the repayment period depends on the amount of the loan. IRCC does not charge interest.
Sponsors are not responsible for repayment of the Transportation Loan.
Sponsors have made a commitment to provide sponsored refugees with financial support for one year after they arrive in Canada or until they can support themselves, whichever comes first.
There may be times when sponsored refugees come to Canada with a certain amount of money of their own. If they have enough money and are able to support themselves, sponsors may expect them to contribute to their own settlement costs.
Many sponsored refugees want to start earning money during the sponsorship period. When their level of total earned household income has surpassed 50% of their household’s level of financial support, deductions are permitted for every dollar earned above that threshold. Once the monthly support is reduced to zero dollars (i.e. after earnings have reached 150% of their household’s financial support level) and the household can sustainably support themselves, they may no longer require the sponsor’s financial support.
At any time during the sponsorship commitment period, if the financial situation of the household changes, the sponsor must resume financial support, as needed.
For more information :
- Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) : Are you a privately sponsored refugee? Here are answers to a few questions you may have about sponsorship and costs
Settlement services are available for newcomers to Canada. These services are often free. They are always confidential. They can include :
- Interpretation and translation of documents, or help to arrange these services
- Help filling out forms and applications
- English classes (ESL or LINC)
- Help finding a job or training
- Information about other community services, schools and health care, etc.
To find settlement services, you can :
- Call 211 (anytime)
- Chat with 211 (Monday to Friday from 7am to 9pm ET)
- Send an email to 211
- Use Services Near Me
211 is a free and confidential service. You can contact them to find programs and services in your community.
Settlement services are also often available in schools and libraries.
Yes. Since French is one of Canada's two official languages, students in Ontario's publicly funded English-language schools are required to study FSL from Grades 4 to 8.
FSL programs are for all students in English-language boards, including students with special needs and English language learners.
For more information, please read this webpage from the official website of the Ontario government.
Yes. As permanent residents, sponsored refugees can obtain a Social Insurance Number (SIN). They need to apply for it, which can be done either online, by mail or in person at a Service Canada Centre. Learn more about the different ways to get a SIN.
A SIN is required to work in Canada and to have access to government programs and benefits.