Private Sponsorship is “one of the boldest innovations in American refugee resettlement history,” Says RefugePoint at One-Year Anniversary of Welcome Corps

BOSTON, January 19, 2024 – One year ago today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Welcome Corps, which empowers everyday Americans to play a leading role in welcoming refugees to the U.S. through private sponsorship groups.

“Private sponsorship is one of the boldest innovations in American refugee resettlement history,” says Sasha Chanoff, CEO of RefugePoint, an organization that partners with refugees to access life-changing solutions. 

The Welcome Corps program, which is within the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, allows people in the U.S. to sponsor individuals or families forcibly displaced from their homes who are living abroad as registered refugees. When the Welcome Corps was first launched in January 2023, sponsors could not choose the individuals they supported.

This program has now been expanded. The Biden administration recently opened the application process that lets American citizens and permanent residents identify a specific refugee or refugee family overseas — including family, friends, and colleagues — and apply to directly sponsor their life-saving resettlement in the U.S. As long as the individuals identified are registered refugees, fit other criteria, and can pass the strict interviewing, security checks, and vetting of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, they are potentially eligible for resettlement.

This expansion comes at a crucial time. Worldwide, war and violence separated families and forced more than 114 million people from their homes by the end of 2023. “Private sponsorship builds on America’s founding principles of providing refuge to those fleeing war and persecution,” Chanoff notes.

Welcome Corps sponsors work in groups of five to raise funds, create a resettlement plan, welcome refugee newcomers at the airport, enroll children in school, and more. The Welcome Corps was developed using lessons learned from the successful Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans, which RefugePoint helped to implement. Led by military veterans and others committed to America’s Afghan allies, this effort supported tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees integrating into communities across the U.S. after the fall of Kabul in August 2021. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the Biden administration created an opportunity to Sponsor Ukrainians called Uniting for Ukraine, which puts the housing and financial responsibilities on the shoulders of the sponsors. More than 170,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived.

Refugees benefit their communities. One government study found that they contribute $63 billion more to the economy than they utilize in services over a decade. Another study found that refugees make excellent employees and, on average, stay longer in their jobs than many Americans.

 Welcome Corps’s recent expansion “dramatically expands opportunities for family reunification in the U.S.” Chanoff said, noting that “reuniting refugee families is one of RefugePoint’s top priorities.” The organization recently announced that it will help lead a global effort to help reunite one million separated refugee families over the next five years.

Since 2005, RefugePoint has helped over 140,000 refugees access resettlement and other pathways to safety, and thousands more to achieve self-reliance and inclusion in their host communities. Many of those RefugePoint has helped come to the U.S. are now able to apply through the WelcomeCorps to bring their loved ones to the U.S. 

People interested in learning more about sponsorship should visit WelcomeCorps.org. Eligibility criteria can be found here.