The following is intended to clarify the situation regarding private sponsorship of refugees in 2017, in the wake of a series of announcements.
- Sponsorship Agreement Holders collectively can submit applications for a total of 7,500 people in 2017. These applications can be for people of any nationality and in any region – unlike recent years, there are no restrictions based on geographic regions (known as visa office sub-caps). Individual Sponsorship Agreement Holders will be allocated a certain number of spaces from the 7,500 total.
- Groups of Five and Community Sponsors continue to be limited to sponsorships of people with a document proving they have refugee status, issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or by the country where they are currently living. An exception to this rule was in place for Syrians and Iraqis, but the government imposed a limit of 1,000 Syrians and Iraqis for whom applications can be submitted benefitting from this exemption, starting on 19 December 2016. As of 25 January 2017, this limit had already been reached. There is no limit on the number of people for whom sponsorship applications can be submitted by Groups of Five and Community Sponsors, as long as there is proof of refugee status. This includes additional Syrians and Iraqis over and above the 1,000 benefitting from the exemption, if they have proof of status (but this is not possible for most Syrians and Iraqis).
The above rules apply to sponsors outside Quebec.
Note that it is very unlikely that the people for whom applications are submitted in 2017 will arrive in 2017 (even 2018 is optimistic).
- Beginning 27 January 2017, no private sponsorship applications at all can be submitted by any type of sponsorship group in Quebec. No date has been given for when this suspension will be lifted.
Applications in process
As of late November 2016, there were 45,000 persons for whom applications for private sponsorship were in process.
Under the 2017 immigration levels, the federal government has set a target of 16,000 privately sponsored refugees to arrive in Canada (including Quebec). Of this total, 4,400 are expected to be resettled to Quebec, according to Quebec’s 2017 immigration plan.
Clearly, many of the 45,000 people who are waiting will not have their applications finalized in 2017.
Former Minister McCallum promised that all Syrians for whom sponsorship applications were submitted by 31 March 2016 (approximately 12,000 persons) would have their applications finalized by early 2017. Some of these persons arrived in 2016 but the remaining applications are a priority in 2017 for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
There is also a commitment to process the applications that have been waiting the longest. There are 6,400 applications that have been waiting for more than 3 years. However, given the commitment to the Syrians it is not clear that even all of those who have been waiting for more than 3 years will arrive in 2017.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has said that their goal is to eliminate the backlog of private sponsorship applications by 2019 and reduce wait times for new applications to about 12 months.