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DOS Launches "Welcome Corps" for Private Refugee Sponsorship

January 19, 2023 (4 min read)

State Department, Jan. 19, 2023

"The Department of State, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services, is pleased to announce the creation of the Welcome Corps, a new private sponsorship program that empowers everyday Americans to play a leading role in welcoming refugees arriving through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and supporting their resettlement and integration as they build new lives in the United States. Over the past year, the American people have extended an extraordinarily welcoming hand to our Afghan allies, Ukrainians displaced by war, and Venezuelans and others fleeing violence and oppression. The Welcome Corps will build on Americans’ generosity of spirit by creating a durable program for Americans in communities across the country to privately sponsor refugees from around the world. The Welcome Corps is the boldest innovation in refugee resettlement in four decades.

Since the formal inception of the USRAP in 1980, the Department of State has partnered primarily with non-profit resettlement agencies to provide initial resettlement assistance to newly arriving refugees. The Welcome Corps creates new opportunities for everyday Americans to engage directly in refugee resettlement through private sponsorship, independent of and complementary to existing avenues for volunteering with resettlement agencies. By tapping into the goodwill of American communities, the Welcome Corps will expand our country’s capacity to provide a warm welcome to higher numbers of refugees. The launch of the Welcome Corps fulfills the U.S. Government’s commitment to develop a private sponsorship program for resettling refugees in the United States, as directed by President Biden through Executive Order 14301 on “Rebuilding and Enhancing Programs to Resettle Refugees” in February 2021. The establishment of the Welcome Corps is also an aspect of the U.S. Government’s ongoing efforts to strengthen, modernize, and expand the USRAP. The Welcome Corps incorporates lessons learned from other emergency initiatives launched over the past year, including the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans and sponsorship-based parole programs overseen by the Department of Homeland Security, including Uniting for Ukraine.

Year One of the Welcome Corps

The Department of State will roll out the Welcome Corps in two phases to identify, evaluate, and scale-up the most successful elements of private sponsorship as an innovative, community-led model of resettlement, with the goal of cementing the Welcome Corps as an enduring feature of our refugee resettlement system.

In the first phase of the program, private sponsors participating in the Welcome Corps will be matched with refugees whose cases are already approved for resettlement under the USRAP. The Department of State will begin facilitating matches between private sponsors and refugees arriving within the first six months of 2023.

In the second phase of the program, which will launch in mid-2023, private sponsors will be able to identify refugees to refer to the USRAP for resettlement and support the refugees they have identified. Further details on the second phase of the program will be forthcoming. The Welcome Corps will ultimately be a key part of the U.S. refugee resettlement system, providing a life-saving lifeline to vulnerable people in need of resettlement.  In the first year of Welcome Corps, the Department of State will seek to mobilize 10,000 Americans to step forward as private sponsors and offer a welcoming hand to at least 5,000 refugees. If more than 10,000 individual Americans join the Welcome Corps in 2023, we will seek to pair additional private sponsors with refugees in need of a warm welcome.

Participating Organizations

The Department of State is funding a consortium of non-profit organizations with expertise in welcoming, resettling, and integrating refugees into U.S. communities to support the Welcome Corps. This consortium is being led by the Community Sponsorship Hub, and includes Church World Service, IRIS – Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, the International Refugee Assistance Project, the International Rescue Committee, and Welcome.US. This consortium will offer expert guidance and support to Americans joining the Welcome Corps. The consortium will manage the Welcome Corps’ program infrastructure including:

  • Overseeing vetting and certification of private sponsors through an application process;
  • Providing training, additional resources, and connections to equip private sponsors with the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to welcome refugees; and
  • Monitoring the program to ensure privately sponsored refugees are getting the support they need for success and collecting data to evaluate the program.

Community organizations and institutions may also apply to participate in the Welcome Corps as Private Sponsor Organizations (PSOs) to mobilize, support, and oversee private sponsors. As the Welcome Corps launches, a range of organizations are stepping forward as PSOs including Alight, Every Campus A Refuge, HIAS, Home for Refugees USA, IRIS – Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, the International Rescue Committee, Rainbow Railroad, and WelcomeNST. With strong support from private philanthropists, the consortium will make funds available to qualifying PSOs to support their efforts.  To complement the work of both PSOs and the consortium, the Department of Health and Human Services will continue to support U.S. states as they build infrastructure and outreach capacity to welcome and support new arrivals’ integration into their new communities.

How to Join the Welcome Corps

Groups of at least five individual American citizens or permanent resident adults will be able to apply to the Welcome Corps to privately sponsor the resettlement of refugees in the United States. Private sponsors will be responsible for independently raising funds and directly providing essential assistance to refugees for their first 90 days in their new community. This assistance includes helping refugees find housing and employment, enrolling children in school, and connecting refugees to essential services in the community. For more information on the Welcome Corps or to become a private sponsor, visit the Welcome Corps website."