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Jan 30, 2024 | Ralph Thomassaint Joseph

Welcome Corps: How To Sponsor Refugees to Come to the U.S.

The Welcome Corps Program is a private sponsorship initiative created through collaboration between the Department of State and the Department of Health and Human Services. This program involves ordinary Americans in welcoming refugees arriving through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). The Welcome Corps Program facilitates the resettlement and integration of refugees to establish their new lives in the United States successfully.

Who can apply to Welcome Corps?

U.S. citizens or adult permanent residents can form groups of at least five to sponsor refugee resettlement. These private sponsors will assist refugees for their first 90 days in their new community. They will help refugees find housing and employment, enroll children in school, and connect them to essential community services. 

When forming a private sponsorship group, the Welcome Corps program encourages consideration of diversity among members, encompassing factors such as age, background, skill set, ethnicity, and religious origin.

The private sponsors can identify a refugee or a refugee family overseas and apply for their resettlement in the United States. They must pass the U.S. government’s refugee screening and vetting process to be approved.

To apply for a refugee family, all refugees must live in the same country and plan to live in the same household once they resettle in the United States.

Can sponsors apply for multiple families?

Private sponsors can apply for one refugee or family of refugees at a time. If approved, they must wait three months after their sponsored refugees have arrived in the United States to apply for other refugees. 

Who is eligible?

Individuals listed in the sponsorship applications must meet the definition of a refugee under U.S. law. According to U.S. law, a refugee is an individual outside their country of nationality or, if they have no nationality, outside their country of habitual residence.

These individuals must have experienced past persecution or have a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular identifiable group of people viewed by their government or persecutors as undesirable or a threat. 

And they must meet these criteria: 

  • They are at least 18 years old. Anyone under 18 must be with their biological parent or legal guardian.
  • They live outside their home country.
  • They do not live in the United States.
  • They live in a country where the U.S. government can interview sponsored refugees and process their cases.
  • They are already registered on or before September 30, 2023, as a refugee by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or by the government of the country where they live; 
  • They have not been previously denied resettlement to the United States through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
  • Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans must have a Form I-134 or I-134A already filed on their behalf before September 30, 2023. They must have been outside their country of nationality by the time the form was filed.

Who is not eligible?

Refugees living currently in the following countries are not eligible for the Welcome Corps program. However, nationals from these countries might be eligible if they are in a country not on this list and meet the refugee definition and other eligibility criteria. 

It’s important to note that the list may be revised as country conditions change. Check refugees’ eligibility here.

Welcome Corps background check and more

Once private sponsors identify the refugees they intend to resettle and support, they must refer them to the USRAP. Each private sponsor group must designate a “group coordinator,” who will create an account and fill out the application.  

U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents over 18 can create a group of at least five to sponsor a refugee or a refugee family. Sponsors must live in or near the welcoming community.

Each Private Sponsor Group (PSG) member must undergo a background check via the Sterling Volunteers website. Every member must sign the Welcome Corps Commitment Form and review the Code of Conduct Agreement. Members must report any new charges or convictions during participation in the Welcome Corps. Learn more about the background check protocols

Before submitting an application, at least one member of the Private Sponsor Group must complete the Welcome Corps Essential Training

The group must submit a Welcome Plan detailing how they will provide core services to the refugee newcomers. The core services include, among other things, housing, transportation, financial support, basic necessities, education and childcare, etc. 

How to apply to USRAP Welcome Corps

Sponsors can submit their applications here after preparing the necessary information and materials. Private Sponsor Groups must raise $2,375 per refugee to support the newcomer. This amount can be made up of financial contributions and donated goods or housing.

After submitting your application, the Welcome Corps team will review it and contact you for questions and additional information.

According to the Welcome Corps, sponsors should expect a minimum processing time of six months to a few years from submitting a completed application before refugees arrive. If your application is accepted, Welcome Corps will notify you, and the individuals you wish to sponsor will be referred to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. They will undergo an overseas interview conducted by the U.S. government to assess their eligibility as refugees under U.S. law. This process includes security screening and a medical examination. Only refugees approved by the Department of Homeland Security are eligible for resettlement in the United States. 

Upon approval for resettlement by the Department of Homeland Security, the International Organization for Migration will coordinate their travel to your city or town.

For more information, send an email to contact@welcomecorps.org 

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