This blog was updated on June 21, 2023.
On January 19th, the Biden Administration announced a new private sponsorship program for refugees called The Welcome Corps. Through the Welcome Corps, everyday Americans can directly sponsor refugees who are being resettled in the U.S.
Since this blog was first published, the Welcome Corps has designated World Relief as an official Private Sponsorship Organization, opening new opportunities for us to equip Americans sponsoring refugees outside the current geographic locations of our U.S. offices.
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’s existing opportunities that engage local communities in welcoming newcomers and is one more way you can answer that call. Here are 9 things you should know about private sponsorship and how you can get involved.
1. What is the Welcome Corps?
The Welcome Corps is a new private sponsorship program from the U.S. government that allows groups to sponsor and resettle refugees. Sponsors will play a key role in welcoming, supporting and assisting refugees as they 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, demonstrating 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.
Those interested in partnering with World Relief in private sponsorship can fill out the form below to receive more information. All Private Sponsorship Groups will be required to go through the Welcome Corps’ application and vetting process, which you can begin at any time on the Welcome Corps website.
3. Who is eligible for resettlement through the Welcome Corps?
This new program will be implemented in two phases. In its first year, the Welcome Corps’ goal is to mobilize at least 10,000 Americans to welcome refugees primarily from countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and then scale up to make the program an enduring feature of the refugee resettlement system.
In the second phase of the program (which is not yet active), private sponsorship groups will be able to identify specific refugees whom they wish to sponsor. For more information on eligibility, visit the Welcome Corps website.
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 and what’s required of sponsors, visit the Welcome Corps website.
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 or connecting with one of our U.S. locations, 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.
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 people from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua and Cuba. This new program goes beyond existing private sponsorship programs providing a pathway to resettle 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?
On June 13, the Welcome Corps announced World Relief as an officially designated Private Sponsorship Organization. This will allow us to use our decades of experience and expertise to equip even more church and community groups who are eager to extend welcome outside the geographic locations of our U.S. offices. We will also continue to provide other community sponsorship opportunities — such as our Good Neighbor Team program — through our local U.S. office locations.
What’s more, we have resources already 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.
*To receive updates on World Relief’s involvement with private sponsorship + a free Workshop course, sign up here.
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 at a local office in your area or making a donation to World Relief. Your gift will allow us to provide job training, legal support and more for immigrants and refugees in the U.S. as well as respond to the needs of people in places like Ukraine, South Sudan and DR Congo. Together, we can extend welcome and address the root challenges that lead to displacement in the first place.