To come to Canada as a refugee, you must be referred. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), a designated referral organization, or a private sponsorship group can refer you. You cannot apply directly to us as a refugee.
To be referred, you must fall into one of these two refugee classes.
1) Convention refugee abroad class
You may be in this class if you:
- are outside your home country,
- cannot return there due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on
- political opinion
- nationality, or
- membership in a particular social group. Examples: gender, sexual orientation, etc.
Convention refugees can be sponsored by:
- the Government of Canada (government-assisted refugees),
- a group of people or an organization (privately sponsored refugees), or
- a mix of both (blended visa office-referred refugees).
You can also be a Convention refugee if you have the funds needed to support yourself and your family after you arrive in Canada. You will still need the UNHCR, a referral organization, or a private sponsorship group to refer you.
2) Country of asylum class
You may be in this class if you:
- are outside your home country, or the country where you normally live, and
- have been seriously affected by civil war or armed conflict, or
- have been denied basic human rights on an ongoing basis.
Country of asylum class refugees can be privately sponsored. You can also be in this class if you have the funds you need to support yourself and your family after you arrive in Canada. You will still need the UNHCR, a referral organization, or a private sponsorship group to refer you.
Under the Government-Assisted Refugees (GAR) Program, refugees are referred to Canada for resettlement by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or another referral organization. Individuals cannot apply directly.
You must register for refugee status with the UNHCR or state authorities to be considered by a referral organization.
A GAR’s initial resettlement in Canada is entirely supported by the Government of Canada or the province of Quebec. This support is delivered by non-governmental agencies called service provider organizations funded by IRCC.
GARs receive support for up to one year from the date they arrive in Canada, or until they are able to support themselves, whichever happens first.
Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program – information for refugees
You become a privately sponsored refugee (PSR) when a group of people in Canada volunteers to help you adjust to life here. Your sponsorship group will:
- help you find a place to live
- give you financial support
- give you social and emotional support
- give you food and clothing
As a PSR, your sponsorship group must support you for 1 year after you arrive or until you can support yourself, whichever comes first.
There are no processing fees for these applications and you don’t need to pay your sponsor for the cost of helping you settle. Sponsors are not allowed to ask you for money to help you be resettled.
Sponsorship Agreement Holders
Many organizations have signed sponsorship agreements with the Government of Canada to help support refugees when they resettle in Canada. These organizations are called Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH).
We maintain a list you can use to verify if the group you are working with is in fact an active SAH. Because only SAHs have signed agreements, Groups of Five and Community Sponsors, which are also groups of volunteers that sponsor refugees, do not appear on the list.
Group of Five:
A Group of Five (G5) is five or more Canadian citizens or permanent residents who have arranged to sponsor a refugee living abroad to come to Canada.
G5s may only sponsor applicants who are recognized as refugees by either the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or a foreign state. The principal applicant MUST already have refugee status. Having refugee status means that an authorized body has found that an individual meets its refugee definition. This authorized body can either be the UNHCR or the government of the country (i.e., foreign state) where the refugee is now living.
You must include the document proving recognized refugee status with the refugee sponsorship application you submit.
If you need assistance in preparing an application for Canadian permanent residence through Refugee programs, view our Book Consultation and or complete our Assessment Form, we can assess you in your goals.