On Thursday, January 19th, the Biden Administration announced a new private sponsorship program for refugees called Welcome Corps. Through Welcome Corps, everyday Americans can directly sponsor refugees who are being resettled in the U.S.
Today, there are an estimated 103 million displaced people globally, including 32.5 million refugees. Forced from their homes and separated from support networks, refugees are among the world’s most vulnerable populations.
At World Relief, we know you want to live out Jesus’ call to welcome the stranger and care for those experiencing vulnerability. Private sponsorship builds on World Relief and other refugee resettlement agencies’ existing opportunities to welcome newcomers and is one more way you can answer that call. Here are 9 things you should know about private sponsorship.
1. What is Welcome Corps?
Welcome Corps is a new private sponsorship program from the U.S. government that allows groups to sponsor and resettle refugees. Sponsors will play the primary role in welcoming, financially supporting and assisting refugees for the first 90 days as they begin to rebuild their lives in the U.S. and integrate into their new communities.
2. How do I become a sponsor?
Becoming a private sponsor is a multi-step process that includes forming a group of five or more individuals, submitting an application, background checks, demonstration of sufficient financial resources and more. Currently, private sponsors can apply to be matched with someone in need of sponsorship. The U.S. government is also working to roll out an option for people to sponsor specific individuals they already know who are in need of resettlement from another country. To learn more and begin your application process with Welcome Corps, click below!
3. Who is eligible for resettlement through Welcome Corps?
Over the last year, the U.S. government has developed sponsorship programs specifically for Ukrainians and Venezuelans.
This new program expands on the previous sponsorship programs and will be implemented in phases. In Welcome Corps’ first year, the goal is to mobilize at least 10,000 Americans to help at least 5,000 refugees, and then scale up to make the program an enduring feature of the refugee resettlement system.
The first refugees who will be assisted by private sponsors through Welcome Corps are expected to arrive in April 2023 and will primarily come from countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
For specific information regarding sponsorship for Ukrainians, click here.
For specific information regarding sponsorship for Venezuelans, click here.
4. If I become a sponsor, what will I do?
Sponsors assume responsibility for initial resettlement services, providing financial and other forms of support as required by the refugee resettlement process. Some examples of non-material support include:
- Meeting the refugee(s) upon arrival in the United States and transporting them to initial housing.
- Ensuring that the sponsee has safe and appropriate housing and basic necessities.
- Ensuring that the sponsee’s healthcare and medical needs are met for the duration of the resettlement period.
- As appropriate, helping the sponsee complete the necessary paperwork for employment authorization, a Social Security card and for any other public benefits for which they may be eligible.
- As appropriate, assisting the sponsee with accessing education, learning English and enrolling children in school.
- Supporting employable sponsees in securing employment in the U.S. workforce
- Ensuring appropriate interpretation/translation
- Providing cultural and community orientations
For more information on the sponsorship process through Welcome Corps and what’s required of sponsors, visit welcomecorps.org.
5. Is private sponsorship good for refugees?
Private sponsorship opens more pathways for more people fleeing persecution to rebuild their lives and thrive. At World Relief, we applaud the expansion of sustainable, lawful opportunities for those fleeing persecution to find safety in the U.S.
Navigating the process of private sponsorship can also come with challenges for both sponsors and refugees. But you don’t have to face them alone.
At World Relief, we have decades of experience working with refugees and displaced populations across the globe through our various local community sponsorship and volunteer programs. We utilize this experience to equip churches and passionate people like you to walk alongside those who choose to welcome newcomers and the newcomers they are matched with.
If you are interested in private sponsorship and would like to receive updates on how World Relief can support you in the process, please sign up here. In addition, we will send you a free code for our eLearning course “Navigating Friendships” which will help you learn how to build empowering, long-lasting friendships with those from different cultures. Please see question 8 regarding World Relief’s involvement in private sponsorships. Please see question 9 if you are unable to be a sponsor but want to still make a difference!
6. Has private sponsorship been done elsewhere?
Yes! Private sponsorship has been a successful piece of refugee resettlement efforts in countries like Canada and Australia, and versions of private sponsorship have even been part of U.S. refugee resettlement historically. Most recently, the U.S. has re-engaged private sponsorship models to resettle Afghans, Urkanians and Venezuelans. This new program expands private sponsorship to include refugees from around the world.
7. What about traditional pathways to refugee resettlement? Will refugees continue to be resettled by World Relief and other agencies?
Yes! The U.S. federal refugee resettlement program will continue to operate and World Relief will continue to offer various ways for churches and individuals to engage in welcoming refugees and other immigrants in vulnerable situations. Private sponsorship will complement the work already being done by organizations like World Relief, allowing more people fleeing persecution to find safety in the U.S.
8. Is World Relief assisting with private sponsorship?
Currently, World Relief provides other community sponsorship opportunities — such as our Good Neighbor Team program — through our local office and is not administering the private sponsorship program directly.* However, we do have resources available to serve both sponsors and those being sponsored.
The World Relief Workshop is our e-learning platform designed to equip individuals, groups and churches to best serve their refugee neighbors — from courses on navigating common barriers to ESL tutoring. Many of our U.S. offices are also able to offer services to sponsees such as English classes and immigration legal services.
9. I’m not ready to become a private sponsor. Is there anything else I can do?
Yes! As mentioned, World Relief works with refugees and displaced people in the U.S. and all over the world and offers the opportunity to welcome and walk alongside refugees and other immigrants through local volunteer and sponsorship programs.
You can support this work by volunteering with World Relief Fox Valley or making a donation to World Relief. Your gift will allow World Relief to provide job training, legal support and more for immigrants and refugees in the Memphis area from countries like Ukraine, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Iran, Myanmar and other parts of the world. Together, we can extend welcome and help people rebuild their lives here in the Fox Valley.
Have additional questions?
We will host an information session on Welcome Corps during the week of February 13th. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how to join.