Visa Office Referrals and Joint Assistance Sponsorships for Refugees

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has released Operational Bulletin 228 – Visa Office Referred and Joint Assistant Sponsorships (JAS) for Refugees – New Templates and Instructions. This bulletin is somewhat timely given the recent media furor regarding Canada’s “failed” refugee system. It highlights that there are alternatives to becoming a refugee in Canada beyond showing up and declaring an intention to seek asylum.  Indeed, the number of refugees who arrive in Canada through specific programs exceeds those who declare that they are refugees from within Canada.

In 2009, 7,202 people became refugees by declaring upon arrival in Canada that they were asylum seekers. 7,425 arrived as government-assisted refugees. 5,036 people arrive as privately sponsored refugees.

The Operational Bulletin highlights two programs designed to combined private sponsorship with government assistance. They are the Visa Office Referrals program and the Joint Assistance Sponsorship program.

Visa Office Referrals (VOR)

In the VOR program, visa offices identify refugees from their inventory for private sponsorship. Such a case is initiated either by the visa office or by the sponsoring group. According to the Bulletin, the program ensures that selected refugees who are ready to travel can proceed to Canada as quickly. The most appropriate cases for such referral are small families or single adults without special needs.

Joint Assistance Sponsorships (JAS)

The JAS program enables sponsoring groups to partner with Citizenship and Immigration Canada in the resettlement of refugees who, because of special needs or circumstances, are expected to require an extended resettlement period and support over and above that which is provided either through government assistance or regular private sponsorship alone.

Private sponsors provide resettled refugees with orientation, significant settlement assistance, and emotional support to supplement the financial assistance and immediate and essential services available through the government’s Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP).

In order to be eligible for a JAS, the refugee:

  • must be a member of the Convention Refugees Abroad Class, the Source Country Class or the Country of Asylum Class;
  • must have a greater need of settlement assistance than other Government Assisted Refugees (GARs) because of exceptional resettlement needs such as one or more of the following:
    • physical or mental disability which could require treatment in Canada;
    • unusual family configuration such as single-parent families with several young children or families consisting only of siblings, one or more of whom has assumed parental responsibilities;
    • separated minors;
    • elderly persons;
    • other special needs identified by the visa office.

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