New data released today by the Community Sponsorship Hub shows significant interest by private sponsors in resettling refugees they know through the Welcome Corps, a State Department program that empowers U.S. sponsors to support refugee resettlement in their local communities. 

Three months after the launch of the program’s expansion to “Sponsor Someone You Know,”  more than 13,000 applications have been submitted. Each application requires at least five U.S. citizens or permanent residents to formally join as a sponsor, bringing the total number of sponsors enrolled to over 65,000 – with many more individuals involved informally. Another 11,000 applications (at least 55,000 sponsors) are in process of submitting an application. 

Applications have come from every state in the country, with Minnesota, Washington, Texas, California, and Ohio leading the way in submissions. This outpouring of support is yet another example of Americans’ enthusiasm for welcoming refugees in their communities through private sponsorship. 

First launched in January 2023, the Welcome Corps is the most significant innovation in U.S. refugee resettlement in decades, in which groups of five adults join to raise money together, complete sponsorship training, pass background checks, and ultimately welcome a refugee into their community. The program started by matching sponsors to refugees already qualified for and awaiting resettlement in the United States. 

In December 2023, responding to demand by interested sponsors, the program expanded to allow  Americans to resettle refugees they already knew, such as family members, friends, classmates, coworkers, or others. Through this expansion, U.S. military veterans, for example, can sponsor Afghan allies; a congregation can join together to sponsor a family that practices the same faith, or a diaspora community can sponsor people in their home country who continue to face persecution. 

Sponsors are expected to directly support refugees in their first 90 days in their new community. This involves enrolling children in school, finding housing, connecting refugees to local social services, helping with English language practice, finding jobs, and more. The sponsor group also provides a built-in social network to support the refugee’s transition to their new country. 

In recent years, the United States has rebuilt the refugee resettlement program from an all-time low during the pandemic to a projected 30-year high in Fiscal Year 2024. The Welcome Corps is part of a long-term strategy to modernize the refugee resettlement system, allowing new actors to play a more significant role in resettlement and expanding the system beyond the geographic boundaries that have normally existed. Evidence demonstrates that privately-sponsored refugees experience quicker integration and a higher likelihood of landing hiring-paying jobs.

With over 60,000 sponsors enrolled within just three months, the program has demonstrated a widespread desire among citizens to welcome and support refugees in their communities. By enabling individuals to sponsor those they know personally, the Welcome Corps program represents a significant leap toward fostering greater community-driven integration. It heralds a promising chapter in the modernization of the U.S. resettlement system.