Frequently Asked Questions

The information in this section pertains specifically to Syrian refugees. Information for refugees from other countries can be found on Settlement.Org or InMyLanguage.Org.


Government-assisted refugees (GARs) are those supported directly by the Government of Canada for the duration of their sponsorship. Canada  funds organizations as part of the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) to provide immediate and essential support services to refugees on their arrival in Canada to help them settle and integrate into life in Canada.

Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program refugees are referred directly by the UNHCR. The Government of Canada and the Private Sponsors share the financial support and private sponsors provide up to a year of social and emotional support. Refugees are also covered under the Interim Federal Health (IFH) Program for the duration of the sponsorship, in addition to provincial health coverage.

With Privately Sponsored Refugees, sponsors provide financial and emotional support for the refugees for the duration of the sponsorship. This includes help for housing, clothing and food.

In the Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS) program, the Government of Canada sometimes partners with organizations to resettle refugees with special needs who may need more support than other refugees in order to settle into Canada. These special needs may arise due to:

  • trauma from violence or torture,
  • medical disabilities,
  • the effects of systemic discrimination, or
  • a large number of family members.
  • Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR),
  • Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS),
  • Government Assisted Refugees (GARs)
  • Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSRs)
  • Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)
  • Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP)
  • Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB)
  • Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB)
  • Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
    (new name) Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
  • Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH)
  • English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC)

For a full list of acronyms see the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program website.

Newly arriving Syrian refugees under the current #WelcomeRefugees program will be processed through the new receiving areas at either Toronto or Montreal's International Airports. Upon arrival all refugees will be welcomed and processed by a Canada by Border Services Officers (BSO) who will confirm their identity, and process their customs and immigration inspections. This BSO will also issue the Interim Federal Health (IFH) Program certificates to help facilitate immediate medical coverage. The new receiving areas will also have stations where immigration photos will be taken for identification documents.

After completing this process, the newly arrived refugees will be permanent residents of Canada. They will continue onward to the Welcome Centre at their respective airport. These areas include food, play areas for children and prayer rooms. At the centre they will receive winter clothing, be issued a Social Insurance Number (SIN). They will then be transported to a local hotel for an overnight stay to rest and eat before they continue to their destination communities.

This information is from the Government of Canada's backgrounder – Airport Receiving areas and Welcome Centres.

You can find information on short-term accommodation options in the short-term housing article on Settlement.Org.

You may also want to consider WeHostRefugees.org, a website where volunteers list available accommodation. This is a volunteer run site and while they do their best to match hosts with those needing space, you should be mindful of the needs and vulnerable nature of the family you are assisting. Another option if you have funds available would be Airbnb and similar services for interim housing.

Yes. After completing the border services process upon arrival at a Canadian Port of Entry (Toronto or Montreal in the case of Syrians), the refugees will be permanent residents of Canada and will continue onto a welcome centre. Refugees arriving at the welcome centre will receive winter clothing, and be issued their Social Insurance Number (SIN).

Yes, convention refugees and protected persons are exempt from the standard 3 month waiting period for OHIP

For information about the Ontario Health Card and how to apply for it, you can read this factsheet from ServiceOntario.

In general, resettled refugees are eligible for basic health coverage from the province or territory of residence upon arrival in Canada.

For all Syrian refugees, the IFHP will provide basic coverage during any waiting periods required by the province or territory they are settling in, or during any time where the refugee has not yet applied for or been issued their provincial/territorial health coverage.

Once they receive health insurance from the province or territory that they settle in, the IFHP will continue to provide coverage for supplemental services, like dental and vision care, and prescription drugs for up to one year.

The certificate that IFHP beneficiaries need to show to health-care providers each time they seek services are being given to Syrian refugees by Canada Border Services Agency officers upon their arrival in Canada or at an inland IRCC office shortly after arrival. An information sheet is also being provided.

For information about the Ontario Health Card and how to apply for it, you can read this factsheet from ServiceOntario.

In general, yes, all refugees can access settlement services. Some specific programs have eligibility requirements, so you may want to ask a settlement worker about any eligibility requirements.

There are many different types of Adult English as a Second Language (ESL) programs in Ontario. Newcomers can take English classes through their local school board or settlement agency. A settlement worker can help you find the right class.

Elementary and high schools in Ontario will assess children at a Newcomer Reception Centre to find out what their language-learning needs are.

English Literacy Development (ELD) courses can help children read and write in English. ELD courses count towards their high school diploma.

Sponsorship is a big responsibility. Among other items, sponsors are responsible for the basic needs of refugees during the sponsorship period (usually a year) and for providing settlement support to the refugee(s). To find a detailed list of the requirements visit the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program’s Overview of Sponsorship Responsibilities webpage.

Syrian refugees are covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) and are eligible for the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP). In addition, they may be eligible for many other benefits including:

  • Canada Child Tax Benefit
  • National Child Benefit Supplement
  • Ontario Child Benefit
  • Universal Child Care Benefit
  • Child Disability Benefit
  • HST credit

Sponsored refugees are not eligible for Ontario Works benefits or subsidized housing during the period of sponsorship.

You can find links to many important forms on InMyLanguage.org. You can also look on Service Canada and Service Ontario for a list of all programs, services and their forms.

Over 300 articles on living in Ontario are available in Arabic and English on InMyLanguage.org. Translated information is also available in Arabic on Settlement.org. Some community groups may also have information in Arabic.

Some community agencies and private businesses offer interpretation services. Contact 2-1-1 Ontario to find an interpretation service in your area. Unless you are able to find a volunteer, most trained interpreters charge fees.

Make sure that the interpreter that you choose if respectful of refugees and understands the importance of sensitivity and confidentiality. You may also want to consider how gender and ethnic background could affect the comfort level of refugees.

Depending on the type of document, a professional or certified translator may be needed. You can find a translator in the yellow pages, through a community agency or through the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario. For more information on this topic see the How do I get a document translated? article from InMyLanguage.Org.

A place of worship can be an important source of support for newcomers. For example, they can find out where to find food that meets their religious dietary needs, stay connected to their your culture and traditions and develop a social support system.

You can find a place of worship by:

Contacting a settlement agency.

Finding meaningful employment can be difficult for newcomers, especially if they have low language skills. Many settlement agencies offer language programs and other specialize in supporting job-seekers who are new to Canada. You can find an agency in your community through Settlement.Org’s Services Near Me interactive map.

There are also social assistance programs available that newcomers may be eligible for such as Employment Insurance, Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program. To find out about the eligible criteria and for information on how to apply, visit InMyLanguage.Org, the Service Canada website or the ServiceOntario website.

Every year, many newcomers are victims of housing scams or have bad experiences with landlords who do not respect tenancy laws. Some landlords charge exorbitant deposits, require many months’ rent payment up-front or do not accept applicants who are retired or on social assistance. These actions are not allowed. To learn about Tenants’ rights, see the Rights and Responsibilities section of InMyLanguage.Org or contact the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).

Refugees (both Government-Assisted and Privately Sponsored) can apply to sponsor immediate family members under the One Year Window opportunity provision. This program is for refugees who have been in Canada for less than a year and are sponsoring a spouse or common-law partner, dependent children, and children of dependent children. The sponsor group is also responsible for the costs of supporting family members who have come to Canada through this program. More information is available from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website.

For information on other sponsorship programs, visit Settlement.Org, InMyLanguage.Org or the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.

If the refugee(s) you are sponsoring have been attacked, contact your local police immediately. If they have been discriminated against in one of the social areas protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code, you can contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre for help filing a claim with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

To check if a charity if legitimate, you can look them up on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Charities Listings webpage. All charities that are registered are listed on this site along with their registered charity number. You can also call the Canada Revenue Agency toll free at 1-877-442-2899.

It is a good idea to research the charity you donate to and to ask for a tax receipt.

To report a scam contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and file a report with your local police.

Within the context of the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program, money given to a charity in support of its private refugee sponsorship program is eligible for a tax receipt if certain criteria apply. You can read more about what is considered a gift for tax purposes in this information brochure from the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program.

As Permanent Residents (PRs), sponsored refugees have mobility rights within Canada. However, it can be complicated if sponsored refugees want to live in a part of Canada that is far from where the sponsors live as they will not be able to provide as much in-person support. Ultimately, the sponsor group is responsible for supporting the refugee(s) no matter where they decide to live in Canada.