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.

Community Sponsor group in Salt Lake City gathers for a photo at the Salt Lake City Airport

It’s incredible to see how much of a difference the TIME and CONCERN of community members makes in the resettlement journey of a refugee family. We know that caseworkers are amazing and would do all these “extra” things if they had bandwidth, but when you have 20 cases in your portfolio, there is no way to do anything beyond delivering core services. It has been a joy to see what can happen when folks get to know a family and focus on how to make their integration more comfortable, welcoming, and hopeful.

Kristi Haycock
Community Sponsorship Manager in SLC

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.

These groups can be formed from a range of formal and informal community groups such as local clubs, groups of friends or neighbors, and individuals interested in community sponsorship who are placed in a group by an affiliate.

Community Sponsorship with the IRC

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 50 miles from an IRC office) for newly arrived refugee families.

Community Sponsorship with USCIS

Through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), individuals and groups may sponsor humanitarian parolees from Ukraine, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela for a temporary period tied to parole status. This is a separate form of sponsorship than the community sponsorship offered with the IRC.

Community Sponsorship with Welcome Corps

Welcome Corps is a new private sponsorship program through which everyday Americans will be able to privately sponsor refugees from around the world for resettlement in the United States. IRC is a Welcome Corps private sponsor organization (PSO) that will provide private sponsor groups (PSGs) with technical assistance and guidance. Learn more about this program and IRC's role by attending a daytime information session or an evening information session.

Understanding Community Sponsorship: Community Sponsorship is an umbrella term that can describe Agency-Led Resettlement and Community-Led Resettlement. Agency-Led Resettlement can be in the form of co-sponsorship or a support team. Community-Led Resettlement can be in the form of Sponsor Circle or private sponsorship via Welcome Corps.
Spokane CS Group standing outside.

Working with the university has been such a rewarding experience, not only for the clients, but also for our IRC Spokane staff! We’ve built great communication between us and their team, and our relationship with them has brought about additional opportunities and collaborations, including a developing partnership with the WSU School of Nursing, and joining with WSU and ECAR [Every Campus a Refuge] to encourage and demonstrate to other colleges and universities around the state how to make their campus a refuge.

Kimberly Curry
Community Sponsorship Coordinator in Spokane