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About Refugee Resettlement and Our Office for Refugees

The Office for Refugees at the Diocese of Hamilton has been in existence for over 30 years. Our focus is the relocation and resettlement of refugees who are outside of their country of origin and in need of shelter, safety and permanent protection. We offer this solution to refugees in the context of Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Program.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is our country’s federal department that is responsible for refugee protection policy and programming. In terms of Canada’s refugee resettlement program, there are three main pathways for refugees to access a resettlement solution:

  1. Government Assisted Refugee (GAR) Program:

    Under the GAR Program, refugees are referred to Canada for resettlement by the UNHCR, or another Canada-recognized referral organization. Individual refugees cannot apply directly to Canada for this program. A GAR newcomer in Canada is provided with financial assistance from IRCC during his/her first year in Canada. Settlement support for this period is provided by non-governmental agencies called Service Provider Organizations (SPOs), funded by IRCC. GAR newcomers in Canada 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.

  2. Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Program:

    Under the PSR Program, Canadian citizens and permanent residents are able to identify, refer and sponsor refugees to Canada, in partnership with IRCC. Through this special program, sponsor teams assume full responsibility for providing financial and settlement support to sponsored newcomers during their sponsorship period (their first year in Canada).

    There are three sponsorship pathways to Canada for refugees overseas:

    1. Group of Five (G5): Five or more Canadian citizens and/or permanent residents can form a sponsorship group and submit a refugee sponsorship application to IRCC for refugees overseas

    2. Community Sponsorship (CS): Any organization, association or corporation located in the community where the refugees are expected to settle can make an organizational commitment to sponsor by submitting a refugee sponsorship application directly to IRCC

    3. Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH): The Diocese of Hamilton is a SAH – an incorporated organization that has signed a formal sponsorship contract with IRCC. Under our SAH agreement, the Diocese of Hamilton assumes overall responsibility for the management of sponsorships under our agreement. There are over 120 SAHs currently in operation in Canada. While all SAHs have the same contract to sponsor with IRCC, each SAH uses its discretion to run its program according to SAH-specific criteria and policies

      • An important advantage of SAH sponsorship is the fact that SAHs can sponsor refugees overseas irrespective of whether or not refugees have been granted refugee status by the UN or the host country of asylum. This is unique to SAH applications. It is important to highlight that G5 and CS applications can only be submitted for refugees overseas that have received refugee status documentation (this does not include asylum seeker or refugee registration documentation)

      • An important limitation of SAH sponsorship is the fact that IRCC allocates each SAH an annual quota, which strictly regulates program participation. Every year, the government informs each SAH exactly how many refugees it can sponsor through submitted applications that calendar year. All sponsorship applications must be submitted to IRCC within the calendar year in which the quota is issued. According to the SAH agreement with IRCC, the government has committed to providing SAHs with their annual quota by March 1st each year. Note that IRCC does not limit or control the number of G5 and CS applications that can be submitted each year

  3. Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) Program:

    The BVOR Program is a blended sponsorship model, within which our Office for Refugees works to match sponsor groups (primarily parishes) with an IRCC-referred profile of a refugee individual or family for sponsorship.

    Advantages of the BVOR Program include:

    • It’s fast! All BVOR refugees have been fully processed by our government overseas (this includes completed medical and security/criminality checks). BVOR refugees are expected to arrive in Canada within a few months of being matched with a sponsor team in Canada

    • It’s subsidized! IRCC provides six months of Monthly Income Support to sponsored BVOR newcomers upon arrival. Sponsors are responsible for 100 per cent of Start-Up Support and six months of Monthly Income Support

Our Office for Refugees at a Glance!

We sponsor refugees through the PSR Program (SAH Stream) and the BVOR Program.

We primarily sponsor family-link applications. This means that a refugee’s loved one in Canada (for example, a friend or family member) submits an application with us in order to reunite through sponsorship

Traditionally, we have three legal sponsors tied to any sponsorship application:

  1. SAH representative (Diocese of Hamilton)

  2. Constituent Group representative (trained churches, mosques and community organizations)

  3. Co-Sponsor (in-Canada family/friend of the refugee/s being sponsored)

Each year, we welcome sponsored newcomers living in diverse countries of asylum across the world including, for example, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Greece, Israel and Guatemala.

In recent years, our top countries of citizenship for sponsored refugees to Canada have been Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Our team is active in the media and participates in various public advocacy forums to promote refugee protection and refugee rights in this country.


Rita Balla

Director, Office for Refugees

905-528-7988 Ext. 2268
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Qais Rasulee

Program Coordinator, Office for Refugees

905-528-7988 Ext. 2233
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