The war in Ukraine, coupled with the change of government in Afghanistan and the many persistant crises around the world, has pushed the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence and persecution over the staggering milestone of 100 million. The U.S. government responded to this past year’s crises by welcoming 76,000 people forced to flee Afghanistan—the largest evacuation of its kind since the Vietnam War—and committing to accepting 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, as well as raising the refugee resettlement ceiling to 125,000 for fiscal year 2022.

Before the Refugee Act of 1980, refugee resettlement in the U.S. was largely conducted privately or through community groups. The act standardized the process and today most refugees in the U.S. are primarily welcomed through resettlement agencies, such as the International Rescue Committee.

There have always been American communities eager to step up to welcome newcomers. However, beginning with the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015 and continuing today as people flee Afghanistan and Ukraine, more local community groups have been offering their help. The IRC and other resettlement agencies have responded to this enthusiasm by integrating community sponsorship at the local and national levels.

Here’s what you need to know to get involved: 

What is community sponsorship? 

Community Sponsorship is an umbrella term that describes different models of resettlement in which clients are paired with community groups who provide the following:

1.   In-Kind Contributions

2.   Financial Contributions

3.   Service delivery to support the welcome and integration of refugees in your local community.

Community sponsors must be an established organization, such as a business, university community, faith group, sports team, or local club. Individuals or informal groups may not serve as community sponsors. Community sponsors do not have to be a formal 501c3, but must be structured.

Depending on where you live, your group can either become a co-sponsor (for groups within 100 miles of an IRC office) or a community partner (for groups further than 100 miles from an IRC office) for newly arrived refugee families.

Interested in becoming an individual sponsor through the U.S. government's "Uniting for Ukraine" program? Learn more here

A woman in a blue and yellow dress holds her one year old son and smiles while standing in front of a house
Jacqueline Uwumeremyi fled the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998 because of escalating violence. In October of 2018, the IRC helped her resettle in Boise, Idaho, where she was welcomed by the local church community. Today, Jacqueline, who speaks five languages, works as an interpreter and helps other refugees adapt to their new community.
Photo: Andrew Oberstadt for the IRC

Become a Co-sponsor

Co-sponsorship is a form of community sponsorship available to groups located within 100 miles of participating local IRC offices. These groups provide clearly defined financial and in-kind contributions as well as services for a refugee family, while their efforts are overseen by the local IRC office. 

As a co-sponsor, you have the potential to significantly enhance a refugee family’s quality of life, including by helping them find better employment opportunities, assisting them with learning English, offering social support and connecting them to opportunities for civic engagement. The services you would provide alongside a local IRC office could include:

If you are in the 100-mile radius of any of the offices below, connect with the IRC office nearest to you to find out how you can get involved:

Oakland, CA | San Jose, CA | Denver, CO | Missola, MT | Wichita, KS | Salt Lake City, UT | Abilene, TX | Turlock, CA | Richmond, VA | Charlottesville, VA | Tallahassee, FL | Elizabeth, NJ 

Check back soon for details from the following offices: 

Phoenix, AZ | Tucson, AZ | San Diego, CA | Spokane, WA | Atlanta, GA 

Become a Community Partner 

Eligible groups located more than 100 miles away from an IRC local office can become Community Partners. Community Partners work directly with IRC headquarters to take on responsibilities for resettlement such as securing housing, welcoming families at the airport, providing food and other basic necessities, and connecting refugees to schooling, English classes and employment. 

As a Community Partner, you will take on the responsibility of fulfilling the requirements of the Reception and Placement (R&P) program and agree to take the lead in supporting these new arrivals in your community. Families will be assigned to your organization by IRC headquarters in collaboration with you as the community partner. While the IRC will provide technical assistance and training, your group will be coordinating and problem solving on the ground to provide for the unique needs of each arriving case. This partnership will exist for the duration of the R&P program, which is 90 days.

Services that Community Partners deliver include:

The IRC will work with the Community Partner to provide technical assistance and training, and will support the group to ensure all R&P services are completed accurately and on time for the case. IRC staff will maintain regular contact with the Community Partner and refugee families to assist with any needs that may arise.

Steps to becoming a Reception & Placement Community Partner:

If your group is interested in applying, please email [email protected] to learn more and receive the application, or join us for an upcoming info session.

What is "Uniting for Ukraine?" 

Uniting for Ukraine allows eligible individuals to temporarily join a supporter in the U.S. who has offered to sponsor them for two years.This is a separate form of sponsorship than the community sponsorship offered with the IRC. 

In this program, entry into the U.S. is granted as humanitarian parole – a legal mechanism whereby the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may grant entry to individuals who are otherwise not eligible for admission to the U.S. for a temporary period for urgent humanitarian need or to serve the public interest. Under Uniting for Ukraine, DHS will grant humanitarian parole on a case-by-case basis for a period of up to two years.

Sponsors must:

If you are interested in learning more or want to apply, please visit Welcome.Us or the DHS.