ISANS celebrates 10 years as a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH)

To celebrate a decade as a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH), we are sharing 10 facts about our work as a SAH the past 10 years.

  1. Did you know ISANS is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH)?

A Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) is an incorporated organization that has signed a sponsorship agreement with the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

The sponsorship agreement allows SAHs to sponsor a certain number of refugees each year for resettlement to Canada through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program.

A SAH may be a local, regional, or national organization. SAHs differ in their activities, size, composition, and geographical mandate.


  1. This year is ISANS’ 10th year as a SAH

ISANS became a SAH in 2011, but ISANS’ Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program began holding roundtables for the SAH community even earlier, in 2007. Here are the number of applications ISANS has submitted the past ten years:

Ten Year Period
YearsFamily Link filesBVORtotal


  1. Seven SAHs operate in Nova Scotia

Five of those have headquarters in NS:

  • Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island, Halifax
  • Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, Halifax
  • Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Halifax, Halifax
  • Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace (SAFE), Antigonish
  • Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax, Halifax


  1. SAHs operate within the government program Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR)

The Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program is a pioneering, Canadian refugee-resettlement program. Through the PSR program, Canadian citizens and permanent residents can engage in the resettlement of refugees from abroad.

The PSR program does not rely on public resources, but rather taps the energy and funds of faith communities, ethnic groups, families, and other benevolent associations. These groups and organizations typically raise funds or use their personal income to provide for and support sponsored individuals or families for their first year in Canada.



  1. The PSR government program turned 42 this year

The arrival of Vietnamese refugees on Canadian shores – often referred to as the “Boat People” – in the mid-1970s mobilized Canadians to respond. In 1979, the Canadian government pledged to sponsor one refugee for each refugee that the Canadian public would support privately, financially and otherwise. For the first time, ordinary people across the country became involved in assisting refugees to settle in Canada through private sponsorship. This forever changed the way Canadians would view their role in Canada’s refugee resettlement programs.


  1. There is more than one type of PSR sponsorship

As members of organizations, associations, and groups, citizens and residents can sponsor refugees overseas as a Group of Five, a Community Sponsor or a Sponsorship Agreement Holder.


  1. There are two shared models of sponsorship

Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS) Program: The Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS) program enables SAHs to partner with IRCC in the resettlement of government-assisted refugees who are identified as having special needs. These refugees often require additional financial and non-financial support to establish successfully in Canada.

Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program: The BVOR Program matches refugees referred for resettlement by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) with private sponsors in Canada. The goal is to engage in a 3-way partnership between the Government of Canada, the UNHCR, and private sponsors.



  1. SAHs coordinate volunteer-run constituent groups and co-sponsor organizations

ISANS’ PSR program currently works with 20 groups (as of 2021).


  1. As of 2017, 5 countries have created their own version of the PSR program

Canada is the first country in the world to have a refugee sponsorship program where private citizens and the community are directly involved in the resettlement of refugees from abroad. The PSR program has become a model for other countries around the world.

Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative shares Canada’s private-sponsorship leadership to help other countries create their own versions.



  1. ISANS’ 2021 Private Sponsorship application process opened in October

Learn more at