WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, the Welcome Corps is celebrating its first anniversary as the flagship program for private sponsorship of refugees in the United States. Through the Welcome Corps, everyday Americans are stepping up to directly support the resettlement of refugees in communities across the country. In the first year of the program, more than 15,000 Americans answered the call to serve by applying to sponsor more than 7,000 refugees. In its second year, the Welcome Corps will continue to galvanize Americans to participate in this meaningful service opportunity to provide a warm welcome to refugees and strengthen the communities where they are resettled in the process.
“Welcoming refugees is an integral part of our American DNA, and we have seen this welcoming spirit flourish in the first year of the Welcome Corps. The Welcome Corps will continue to invite Americans to do what we do best — be caring and generous neighbors, guides, and friends to refugee newcomers as they build new lives in the United States,” said Ambassador Julieta Valls Noyes, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
Representing one of the boldest innovations to U.S. refugee resettlement in 40 years, the State Department launched the Welcome Corps to create new ways for Americans to play a key role in resettling refugees. In groups of five or more adults, Americans come together in the Welcome Corps to take on essential tasks to help refugees during their first 90 days in the United States. This includes securing and preparing initial housing, greeting refugees at the airport, helping adults find employment, enrolling children in school, and serving as guides to enable refugees to forge ties in their new communities.
“The Welcome Corps builds on the incredible willingness of communities ready to offer a warm welcome to those seeking safety, refuge, and belonging in the United States,” said Annie Nolte-Henning, Executive Director of Community Sponsorship Hub. “Celebrating this moment with sponsors across the country, from coast-to-coast and in our heartland, is a testament to the enduring spirit of welcome in America.”
Of the more than 15,000 Americans who have applied since the Welcome Corps launched a year ago, more than 100 sponsor groups across 32 states have now welcomed refugees from around the world. Participating sponsors represent Americans from all walks of life, including veterans, faith groups, businesses, universities, immigrants, and previously resettled refugees seeking to pay it forward, as well as Americans getting involved in refugee resettlement for the first time.
In the program’s second year, the Welcome Corps will continue to enable Americans to be matched with refugees they do not know, or to apply to sponsor refugees they do know. Americans being matched with refugees can also indicate whether they are well placed to welcome specific refugee populations or cases based on their ability to uniquely offer support in relation to specific spoken languages, nationalities, and/or family sizes. In December 2023, the Welcome Corps expanded, making it possible for Americans to apply to sponsor refugees they know for resettlement in the United States.
As part of the Welcome Corps, more than 25 organizations have also stepped forward to serve as private sponsor organizations that offer hands-on guidance and support to sponsors and refugees throughout their sponsorship journeys. These organizations represent a diverse range of local, state, and national organizations with expertise in refugee resettlement, ranging from traditional non-profit resettlement agencies as well as grassroots community organizations.
“The success of Welcome Corps proves what Church World Service has long known: Americans are dedicated to welcoming new neighbors and community partners.” said Erol Kekic, Senior Vice President for Programs at Church World Service. “In its first year, Welcome Corps enlisted more than 100 sponsor groups across the United States who are enthusiastically greeting the displaced from around the globe. Because of the initiative of our national spirit, these new neighbors now have the opportunity to join with their loved ones and contribute to resilient, healthy, and sustainable communities.”
All refugees arriving in the United States through the Welcome Corps have been approved by the U.S. government for resettlement in the United States through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. The screening process includes extensive case review and security screening. Upon arrival, refugees are granted legal status, employment authorization, and access to key public benefits such as health insurance, and can eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.
To learn more about the Welcome Corps, to sign up for updates, or to find information about becoming a sponsor, please visit WelcomeCorps.org.