News & Politics

The State Department Just Announced a New Private Sponsorship Program for Refugees

Via Welcome Corps, groups with as few as five members can apply to help refugees resettle in the US.

A sign in Columbia, Maryland. Photograph by Keely Bastow.

The State Department announced a collaboration with a private group last Thursday that will allow groups of Americans to sponsor refugees from any country. Welcome Corps hopes to recruit 10,000 sponsors and help 5,000 refugees in its first year. 

The program opens up the available pool of resources to help a growing number of refugees. Previously, government-funded resettlement agencies were the primary avenue through which refugees received assistance. 

Groups of at least five Americans can apply to sponsor newcomers. They will need to raise $2,275 and submit a “welcome plan” that explains how they will support newcomers in their first 90 days. The group will also be responsible for welcoming people at the airport, securing their housing, enrolling their children in school, and helping adults find employment. 

Welcome Corps CEO Nazanin Ash tells Washingtonian that she expects to see strong interest in the program. Previous initiatives for private sponsorship, like the Biden Administration’s initiative Uniting for Ukraine, saw more than 124,000 Americans apply. A major difference between Welcome Corps and previous private sponsorship initiatives is that it is a permanent program and will bring people into the US on refugee status rather than humanitarian “parole,” which will create a pathway for them to attain citizenship after five years.

In mid-2023, Welcome Corps will roll out a second phase in which sponsors can identify or name a person to be considered for the program. This will allow family members to sponsor those still in their home country and pave the way for affinity groups, like those in the LGBTQ+ community, to help those who are facing persecution in other countries.

“We’re sitting on a sleeping giant, and that sleeping giant is the capacity and the generosity of the American people,” Ash says. “If we tap into that, we’re going to be able to do so much more than our government systems can do alone.”  

Welcome Corps was modeled after a successful Canadian program that has so far resettled 368,000 refugees in Canada. Almost half of all refugees who have come to Canada since 1970 have been resettled through private sponsorship, and Ash expects Welcome Corps to have as significant of an impact eventually.  

Applications for Welcome Corps are open now.

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Keely recently graduated with her master’s in journalism from American University and has reported on local DC, national politics, and business. She has previously written for The Capitol Forum.