Secondary migration and sponsorship breakdown

During the sponsorship period (usually the first year) it is possible that difficulties will arise that might impede the sponsoring group from offering further support to sponsored persons. Two examples of this include secondary migration, when a sponsored person moves out of the community where their sponsoring group in located, and sponsorship breakdown, when the sponsoring group is no longer providing support to the sponsored person due to a breakdown in their relationship.  

Topics covered

Secondary migration

Sponsorship breakdown


Secondary migration

Sponsored persons receive permanent resident status upon arrival in Canada which gives them the right to move freely within the country. A sponsored person may decide to move to a different community to be closer to a friend or relative, to lower their cost of living, or because of better job prospects. This is referred to as secondary migration or self-destination. However, if this happens during the period covered by the undertaking (usually one year) then the sponsoring group will have to assess if they can continue to support the sponsored family.

Here are a few possible scenarios:

  • The refugee is able to support themselves in their new community for the remainder of the sponsorship period, so the sponsoring group has no further committments
  • The sponsoring group continues to support the refugee with financial assistance, but is no longer able to offer settlement support (if the new community is too far away)
  • The sponsoring group decides to transfer the sponsorship to another group which is located in the new community who will provide financial and settlement support (responsibility of the sponsoring group to find the new group)
  • The sponsoring group is unable or unwilling to support the family in their new community (either with funds or settlement support), and cannot transfer the sponsorship to a new group (see Sponsorship breakdown below).

If the sponsoring group is partnered with an organization with an umbrella agreement, or a Sponsorship Agreement Holder, they can discuss the situation with them so see what options could be available. 

Sponsored persons moving from other provinces or territories into Québec

Sponsored persons destined to Quebec go through an extra step of processing to receive a certificate known as a Certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ) which gives them access to several services in the province (ex. language courses, school for children, etc.). If a sponsored person who was not selected by the Quebec government decides to move to the province, then they will not automatically have access to services reserved for people with a CSQ. 

It is possible to apply for a special CSQ (specifically for those who were not originally destined for Quebec) however, it is not guaranteed to receive it. In addition, it is only possible to apply once the sponsored person has moved to Quebec, meaning that the sponsored person cannot know ahead of time if their application will be approved. 

To apply, call the Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion's Client contact centre to request the application for a Certificat de non-sélection de Québec and to get instructions. The application can also be facilitated by a settlement worker in Quebec (see the section Finding help with settlement). Once the application has been accepted, the settlement agency can assiste the sponsored person to register for all necessary services. 

Sponsored persons moving into a province (which is not Québec) or territory

Most services for newcomers are funded by the federal government, which means that a refugee does not lose access if they change to a different province. However, they will still need to seek out a settlement agency for help, and register for all their services (health care, language classes, etc.). 


It is highly recommended that, before moving, the sponsored person contacts a settlement organization in the area they plan to move to in order to confirm the services and supports to which they would have access, and a complete picture of life in the new area (ex. cost of living, job prospects, etc.).


Sponsorship breakdown

A sponsorship breakdown occurs when the sponsors are unable or unwilling to provide further support to the sponsored family before the sponsorship period has ended (usually the first year the family is in Canada). Sometimes this is difficult to avoid, for example if a newcomer has compelling reasons to move to another province. However, it could also be the result of disagreements which have come up over the course of the sponsorship period, evenutally leading to a complete breakdown in the relationship between the sponsoring group and the sponsored persons.

Assistance to resolve disputes

Miscommunications can be a result of several factors including cultural differences, mismanaged expectations, misunderstandings, and extreme stress. This information sheet created by the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program includes tips about how to avoid disputes and information about who to contact if the group needs help to resolve a dispute. However, for groups in Quebec there is no official service available to mediate disputes. If the group is sponsoring through an organization with an umbrella agreement, or a Sponsorship Agreement Holder they can request assistance from the organization. 

Reporting a breakdown to the government

If a breakdown has occured, it can be reported to the appropriate government office. For groups in Quebec they can contact the Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion's Client call centre. For groups in all other provinces or territories follow the instructions here. The government may intervene to assess how to move forward. Based on this review, the government may determine that the sponsoring group is in default (meaning they are found responsible for the breakdown), or that it is a no-fault breakdown. The implications of these two types of breakdowns are different.

If the sponsoring group is found to be in default, the government has the right to recuperate the amount paid to the family through social assistance up until the end of the undertaking. In some cases, an at-fault breakdown can cause a suspension of other sponsorships the sponsor might have in progress at that time. It could also affect a sponsoring group’s ability to sponsor another refugee family in the future.

If it is determined to be a no-fault breakdown, then the sponsorship undertaking is cancelled and the sponsoring group is released from any further obligation.