Common Questions

I’m a refugee abroad. How can I get to BC (Canada)?

This is a complex topic with no easy answers. Thank you to our friends at the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP) for helping us draft this Common Question.

Option 1: Government-Assisted Refugee Program

A) Register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Contact your local UNHCR office to make sure you are registered as an asylum seeker. Explain to them why you left your home country.

Normally, referrals for resettlement are done by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which determines need for resettlement based on many factors, such as: the level of vulnerability and safety concerns, and availability of other long-term solutions.

They will determine whether you are eligible for resettlement to Canada: you must satisfy the requirements under the Convention Refugees Abroad Class*.

Even if you are eligible, you may not be chosen for resettlement. There are a large number of applicants and a limited number of spaces.

B) What happens if UNHCR refers me as a refugee?

If you are referred for resettlement to Canada by UNHCR (or in a small number of cases by other referral agencies – it depends on the country and situation, there is no exact list), then you might be considered by Canadian visa officers for resettlement in one of these categories:

·         GAR (Government-Assisted Refugee) where your costs of initial settlement (usually up to one year) are entirely supported by the Government of Canada, or

·         BVOR (Blended Visa Office-Referred Refugee) where the Government of Canada provides up to six (6) months of income support through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP), with private sponsors providing another six (6) months of financial support and a full year of social and emotional support.

Important Notes:

·         It is not possible for asylum seekers and refugees to refer themselves for resettlement as a GAR or BVOR.

·         You will not be eligible for resettlement to Canada if you:

o   have another durable solution for protection (such as resettlement to another country);

o   have become citizens of another country and can have protection in that country,

o   have chosen to return to their country of origin, or

o   if your reasons for fear of persecution no longer exist.

Option 2: Private Sponsorship

You could qualify for resettlement to Canada through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees program, if you:

·         meet the requirements under Convention Refugee Abroad Class* or Country of Asylum Class**; and

·         if you have a private sponsorship group in Canada.

See the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP)’s resource called “Are you eligible for Private Sponsorship to Canada?” - The resource explains the requirements. For example, you must currently be living in a country that is not: (1) Canada or (2) your country of origin.

Being privately sponsored means that an organization in Canada or a group of Canadian citizens and/or permanent residents has committed to provide you with financial support and settlement assistance for the period of 12 months after your arrival.

Types of private sponsorship groups include: a Group of Five, a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) organization, or a Community Sponsor organization in Canada. If you do not have a family member or other connection to Canada, it might be very difficult to find a sponsoring group that can help you.

There are currently special and changing requirements for Syrian refugees. Please check the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website for updates.

Option 3: Immigration as a Skilled Worker

In some cases you could qualify to come to Canada as a skilled worker, or through other immigration programs that are open to all qualified candidates from all over the world. See the IRCC website here for eligibility information.


*Convention Refugee Abroad Class: “you may be in this class if you: are outside your home country; and cannot return there due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on: race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group, such as women or people with a particular sexual orientation”.

**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, and continue to be, seriously and personally affected by civil war or armed conflict, or have suffered massive violations of human rights”.


Do you still have questions?

Get in touch with RSTP (HelpMap Link coming soon).

Are you a refugee claimant in BC?

Get in touch with First Contact Vancouver here.

See our related common questions:

 Last reviewed June 2016

Convention Refugees, refugees, syrian refugees, IRCC, RSTP, UNHCR