For Private Sponsorship groups like ours, which want to undertake sponsorships on an on-going basis, there are number of benefits of working through the Blended Visa Office Referral (BVOR) program as compared to the Named-Case stream.
Named-Cases are those where an application is prepared here in Canada and submitted to the Canadian Immigration Department (IRCC) for review and, hopefully, approval. The vast majority of Syrian refugees who were privately sponsored over the last two years came to Canada through the Named-Case program. Their applications were prepared by family or community members or by groups such as Lifeline Syria before being submitted to the IRCC for consideration.
The BVOR program, on the other hand, contains refugees whose files have already been reviewed and approved by the IRCC. A list containing brief biographical profiles of the approved BVOR refugees is periodically circulated by the RefugeeSponsorship and Training Program and Group of 5 or private sponsorships groups, working with their Sponsorship Agreement Holders, can choose from this list who they want to sponsor.
When comparing the two refugee programs, Private Sponsorship groups may find that there are a number of benefits of opting to sponsor refugees from the BVOR stream. These benefits include:
- Lower fundraising requirements: Under the BVOR program the government pays up to 40% of the associated costs for the first year of resettlement here in Canada. Named-Cases require private sponsors to pay for 100% of the settlement costs.
- Faster and more predictable arrival times: Since refugees under the BVOR stream are pre-approved by the government and are ‘ready to travel’, they will normally arrive within 12 weeks of the private group requesting the sponsorship [Note – there was a breakdown in the BVOR program in 2016/2017 which led to inordinate delays, substitutions and outright cancellations but this was an exception to the program’s normal operating process].
Named-Cases typically take a minimum of 18 months but possibly as long as 36 - 48 months from submission of the application to their arrival into Canada, assuming the application is approved.
- Reduced Paperwork: Private groups need to fill in minimal paperwork to sponsor BVOR refugees whereas Named-Cases involve extensive paperwork and backup documentation to support the application.
- BVOR cases are pre-approved and arms-length, eliminating the possibility of emotional turmoil that can arise in stalled or rejected Named-Case applications: With Named-Cases, delays or rejections can be heart-wrenching for both the sponsors and the refugees themselves. In some cases, the sponsors are communicating directly with the Named-Case applicants trying to explain why the application is delayed or possibly helping out financially until it is approved. [Note – the process errors in some of the BVOR files mentioned above, in 2016/2017, in some cases also lead to similar issues, but that is not how the program normally functions].
- Sponsor groups can choose who to sponsor based on their own priorities: Our group is interested in sponsoring the most vulnerable of refugees – those with medical issues, women at risk, larger families, single parent families etc. In addition to these criteria, we are now also interested in sponsoring Rohingya refugees. The circulated BVOR lists provide profile descriptions, including country of origin, which allow groups to select who they want to sponsor based on their own pre-determined priorities
- BVOR sponsorships do not use up scarce Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) quotas: Each year the IRCC sets a limited quota for the number of sponsorships that a particular SAH, such as the United Church, can undertake. Since BVOR sponsorships do not count against these scarce quotas they are more appealing to SAH’s and they can be initiated even when the SAH has reached its annual quota limit.
I want to emphasize that both the Named-Case and the BVOR programs are important and valuable in terms of Canada’s overall refugee efforts and the humanitarian values that they espouse. The Named-Case stream enables community groups, or the newcomers themselves, to sponsor relatives or other key members of the newcomers’ original community, and this has been shown to be extremely important to the emotional well-being of the newcomers and in helping to ensure their successful long-term resettlement here in Canada. From a purely humanitarian point of view, family reunification is obviously something we should strive for, rather than having families separated by geography and possibly leaving close family members overseas, still in harms way.
Furthermore, in what has become known as the “Echo” effect, many Private Groups developed a strong attachment with their sponsored newcomers and are now undertaking follow-on Named-Case applications to help these newcomers bring in extended family members as well. Our group have decided that we will consider sponsoring adult children or the parents and grandparents of people we have sponsored but generally we are not looking at sponsoring relatives beyond that – but that is a decision that our group, like other groups, must make on a case by case basis.
Notwithstanding the “Echo” effect, for those groups that are considering sponsoring refugees on an on-going basis, one after another, they may find for the reasons mentioned above that the BVOR program is much easier to work with than the Named-Case stream. Currently there is a shortage of Private sponsors putting their hand up for BVOR refugees which is a shame given the many benefits associated with this program.
Chair, Ripple Refugee Project