In January 2023, the U.S. Department of State, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, launched the Welcome Corps, a new program that empowers everyday Americans to welcome refugees arriving through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).
The boldest innovation in the United States’ approach to refugee resettlement in four decades, the Welcome Corps builds upon our country’s long tradition of providing refuge to people forced to flee their homes. The launch of the program is widely popular among the American public and even more popular among those who personally know someone who is a refugee. In the first weeks following the launch, tens of thousands of people registered to learn more about the program and how they can join the Welcome Corps.
For more than 40 years, 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 Americans in communities across the United States to engage directly in refugee resettlement, building on existing opportunities to volunteer with resettlement agencies.
In February 2021, President Biden’s Executive Order on “Rebuilding and Enhancing Programs to Resettle Refugees” called for restoring and expanding the USRAP, including the development of a private sponsorship program. The U.S. Department of State has been moving toward the launch of private sponsorship for years, backed by research and recommendations from experts in refugee resettlement, protection, and welcome. The establishment of the Welcome Corps is also an aspect of the U.S. Government’s ongoing efforts to strengthen, modernize, and expand the U.S. refugee resettlement system.
The Welcome Corps incorporates lessons learned from emergency response efforts for refugees, asylees, and humanitarian parolees—including those overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. With the Welcome Corps the Department of State has established private sponsorship as a permanent resettlement pathway for refugees seeking to rebuild their lives in the United States.
Sponsoring Refugees. Strengthening Communities.
Refugees being resettled in the United States receive initial assistance and basic services through the USRAP in one of two ways: through professional resettlement agencies or by private sponsors through the Welcome Corps.
In the first and current phase of the program, the Welcome Corps team will match approved private sponsors with refugees who have already been approved for resettlement in the United States through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Many of those welcomed by private sponsors during the first year of the program will come from Sub-Saharan Africa. In mid-2023, the Welcome Corps will expand and roll out a second phase of the program that will allow private sponsors to identify a specific refugee individual or refugee family overseas whom they wish to sponsor and refer to the USRAP for consideration to be resettled in the United States. All refugees must meet the eligibility and admissibility criteria to be approved for resettlement through the USRAP. Through the Welcome Corps, Private Sponsor Groups are required to provide services similar to those provided by resettlement agencies through the Reception & Placement (R&P) Program.
Working in groups of at least five individuals, private sponsors come together as a community to collectively support refugees’ resettlement and integration as they build new lives in the United States. The Welcome Corps provides private sponsors with access to tools and resources as well as ongoing guidance from resettlement experts throughout the sponsorship period.
In addition to providing core private sponsorship services, private sponsors connect refugee newcomers directly to their communities, helping them build a social network, become self-sufficient, and gain a stronger sense of belonging. These shared acts of welcome strengthen communities and build support for refugee protection by directly involving private citizens in refugee resettlement.