Moving to Canada as a refugee 

Canada has been a place of refuge for persecuted and oppressed groups at many points in history, from black Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution to the most recent flood of refugees escaping the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Many ethnicities, nationalities and religious groups have had the opportunity to rebuild their lives and flourish in a stable political climate, free from the clutches of war and conflict. 

The tradition continues to this day, with the country involved in resetting and rehabilitating refugees worldwide. It is one of the leading destinations for refugees and asylum seekers. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had Canada as a leader in the resettlement of refugees in 2019. The country also admitted over 30,082 refugees last year. 

According to the 2021 census, 218,430 new refugees were admitted as permanent residents from 2016-2021. Canada also has the distinction of being the only country to be awarded the Nansen Medal in recognition of its aid to refugees. 

The article will attempt to explain the current state of refugees in Canada with information on the resettling process, moving to Canada and how to find a job here.  

Who is a Refugee? 

For clarity, refugees are different from immigrants. 

Refugees have minimal agency in selecting their destination. Their need to immigrate is usually forced upon them as a result of oppression, persecution, wars or other critical situations.  

How do the Refugee and Asylum system work in Canada? 

The Canadian Refugee system has two parts: 

  • Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program 
  • In-Canada Asylum Program 

The first deals with refugees from outside Canada, while the Asylum Program deals with refugee protection claims from within Canada. We’re primarily concerned with the first refugees from outside Canada. 

Can you apply for the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program 

No, there are no applications for Refugee programs. 

The IRCC guideline specifies that you must be referred by the UNHCR, a designated referral organization, or a private sponsor to come to Canada as a refugee. 

Refugees can be admitted into Canada as: 

  • Government-assisted refugees (GARS)- who have been referred for resettlement by the UN Refugee Agency. 
  • Private Sponsored refugees (PSR)- who are identified and sponsored by private sponsors in Canada under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program. 
  • Blended visa office-referred (BVOR)- refugees who have been referred by the UN Refugee Agency and supported by government and private sponsors. 

Who is eligible for referrals to a refugee program 

To be eligible, you must fall into either of two refugee classes: 

  • Convention Refugee abroad class- If you are outside your home country and cannot return due to a legitimate fear of persecution on the grounds of: 
    • race 
    • religion 
    • political opinion 
    • nationality 
    • membership in a particular group. 
  • Country or asylum class- If you are outside your home country and are: 
    • Seriously affected by civil war or armed conflict, or 
    • Denied basic human rights on an ongoing basis. 

How to apply if you have been referred? 

The IRCC portal provides an application package for referred refugees moving to Canada. 

Who is not eligible for this program? 

A person is ineligible if: 

  • They have other stable options for protection 
  • They become a citizen of another country 
  • They choose to return to the country they left 
  • The reasons for seeking refuge no longer exist 

The Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program 

The Private Sponsorship of Refugees is a Canadian program that helps individuals and groups sponsor the resettlement of refugees with their own funds and income. It was born in 1979 in the aftermath of the Vietnam war when the Canadian government and the public helped sponsor the settlement of Vietnamese refugees in Canada. 

The Private sponsors or Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH) under this program are often religious, ethnic, community or humanitarian organizations that sign agreements to help refugees resettle within their communities in Canada. 

The participation of private sponsors has led to over 327,000 refugees being welcomed into Canada since 1979 on private funding alone. 

Who sponsors a Refugee under Private Sponsorship of Refugees? 

Sponsorship Agreement holders can identify refugees they want to sponsor under PSR. This can be someone the sponsor already knows, like a friend, family or contact in another country. 

Where can you get help as a refugee in Canada? 

Restarting from scratch in a foreign country can be scary. The hurdles can be both mental and physical, like the pressure to find a job in Canada or traumatic memories and physical wounds. Fortunately, the Canadian government has certain initiatives to help refugees.  

Newcomers are entitled to the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP)- This program helps Government-assisted refugees with direct financial support for immediate and essential services. Other services under this program include: 

  • Port of entry and reception services 
  • Temporary accommodation and help with finding permanent accommodation 
  • Assessment and referrals to other resettlement programs 
  • Information on financial and skills training for jobs 
  • Links to federal and provincial programs 

A complete list of Resettlement Assistance Program service providers can be found at the IRCC portal.

How to find a job in Canada? 

A Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a prerequisite for working in Canada. It is a 9-digit number that makes you eligible for government programs and benefits and is required by most Canadian employers. 

RAP Service Providers can help you with the application process for your own Social Insurance Number, or you can apply online at the IRCC portal. The application is free of cost. 

There are many ways to approach a job search, depending on your qualifications and experience. Many Canadian businesses have initiatives to employ refugees; your local programs can help you get in touch with such initiatives. Alternatively, you can find a job on forums and websites like Canada’s Job bank or popular networks like LinkedIn, Indeed and Facebook.  

Canada’s current Refugee situation 

The Canadian government was most recently involved in helping refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine. The country welcomed over 22,915 Afghan refugees since August 2021 as part of its target to resettle at least 40,000 Afghan refugees in Canada. Some special programs introduced to help Afghan refugees along with their eligibility requirements are given in the links below: 

Example of Job initiatives for Afghan refugees 

Helping refugees find stable jobs is a vital part of the resettlement process. The state and local businesses have stepped up in many parts of Canada. Some notable mentions, according to a news release from May 13, 2022, include: 

  • McCain Foods/Day & Ross- who committed to hiring 125 refugees by 2024, with corporate and manufacturing opportunities across Canada. 
  • Maple Leaf Foods made over 700 positions available for Afghan refugees across the country in farming, processing and production. 
  • Commissionaires, Canada’s largest private sector employer of veterans, identified positions open to Afghan refugees as security guards, mobile patrollers, administrative clerks, receptionists, systems security technicians, network cabling technicians, supervisors etc. 
  • Amazon/Amazon Web Services invited Afghan refugees to apply for vacant positions in 12 cities across Canada, such as Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Halifax. 

Canada’s private sponsorship of refugees and other humanitarian programs help thousands escape persecution each year. The country has assisted refugees from conflict zones across the globe, including Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Iraq and Columbia. This commitment to the refugee cause and the multicultural aspect of its society make Canada one of the leading and favoured destinations for refugees in 2022. 

Janggoulal Sitlhou

Janggoulal Sitlhou

Janggoulal Sitlhou is a content writer with SettleCanada. He is a Political Sciences graduate and a keen follower of international affairs and contemporary history. He has a background in publishing and regularly dabbles in writing and game development projects. Janggoulal currently writes on issues related to Canadian Immigration.