Private Sponsorship

Arleen Zucker, left, and Tamila Kushnarova share a smile and embrace while saying goodbye following a Welcome Circle visit to Tamila's home. The home is pictured at left. Private Sponsorship | How to Sponsor Refugees | HIAS

Arleen Zucker, left, and Tamila Kushnarova share a smile and embrace while saying goodbye following a visit to Kushnarova’s home in Portland on Friday, April 7, 2023. Zucker is a member of the Welcome Circle that sponsored Kushnarova’s family to resettle in Portland after fleeing the war in Ukraine. (Katharine Kimball for HIAS)

At a time when more than 110 million people have fled their homes because of persecution or conflict, it is hard to imagine how one person, one group of people, one community, can make a difference. Yet at its core, refugee resettlement is a local endeavor, and the local community plays a significant role in helping newcomers successfully restart their lives. Across the United States and Europe, groups of volunteers are stepping up through private sponsorship to provide the supportive, caring reception that makes such a difference.

What is Private Sponsorship?

Private sponsorship programs allow communities, organizations, educational institutions, groups of individuals, and more to assist refugees and other displaced people by supporting their resettlement and helping them integrate into their new communities. Unlike co-sponsorship – where community groups provide wraparound support to refugees being served by local resettlement agency offices – private sponsors take on all the responsibilities associated with resettlement.

These programs give everyday people the opportunity to take a leading role in welcoming newcomers to their communities. They also can expand a country’s refugee resettlement capacity, building on traditional resettlement processes to allow the United States and other countries to admit more refugees and other displaced people.

Why Partner with HIAS?

HIAS’ expertise in refugee resettlement dates back to the agency’s founding in the 1880s. During the first century of our existence, we resettled approximately 4.5 million Jewish refugees. Today, we help refugees from around the world who are in danger because of who they are, regardless of race, religion, and nationality. Across the United States, we resettle refugees and organize communities in partnership with our network of 29 local resettlement partners, hundreds of congregations, and thousands of individuals.

With our unique combination of expertise and our extensive network of organized and active communities, HIAS has been a frontrunner in private sponsorship. HIAS offers private sponsor groups with whom we partner a range of supports, including one-on-one guidance, regular workshops and trainings, weekly office hours, downloadable tools and guides, and an online Community of Practice that provides private sponsors 24/7 access to resources, discussion boards, and more.

Following the fall of Kabul in 2021, HIAS launched our first private sponsorship initiative, Welcome Circles, in response to the overwhelming need for additional resettlement capacity to help the 76,000 Afghans evacuated. As part of the Sponsor Circle movement developed by the Community Sponsorship Hub, HIAS’ network of volunteers came together to welcome Afghan evacuees into their communities.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, displacing nearly eight million people from the country, HIAS’ private citizen-powered model met the needs of displaced Ukrainians too. HIAS worked with Oxford University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute to develop RUTH, a proprietary platform that considered the resettlement preferences and unique circumstances of displaced Ukrainians in need of sponsorship when matching them with Welcome Circles in the U.S. With the advent of matching through the Welcome Corps and shifting circumstances in Ukraine, HIAS no longer matches displaced people with Welcome Circles — but RUTH’s underlying principle of putting choice and agency in the hands of displaced people whenever possible continues to motivate our work.

Since the inception of the Welcome Circle program in late 2021, HIAS has trained, vetted, certified, and provided ongoing guidance to more than 130 sponsor groups across the U.S., serving over 450 individuals to date. In Europe, HIAS has launched circles in 12 countries, and has served more than 1,000 displaced Ukrainians.


WATCH: Three Faiths, One Family

HIAS’ work with private sponsorship began with the Welcome Circles program following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, in an effort to help the unprecedented number of Afghan evacuees who had come to the U.S. to settle in new communities more quickly.


This video, “Three Faiths, One Family,” tells the story of three faith communities in St. Louis — Congregation Shaare Emeth, Parkway United Church of Christ, and the Turkish American Society of Missouri (TASOM) — who came together to welcome a family from Afghanistan and help them rebuild their lives in St. Louis.


Oct 19, 2023

Private Sponsorship Programs for Refugees and the Road Ahead for Welcome Corps

Oct 19, 2023

Thumbnail for the explainer At the beginning of 2023, the Biden administration launched Welcome Corps, the first private sponsorship program for refugee resettlement that the United States has implemented since the 1990s. This explainer provides an overview of private sponsorship, how it is different from traditional resettlement and other programs, and the road ahead for Welcome Corps.

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Oct 6, 2023

Welcome Circles in Europe for People Fleeing Ukraine

Oct 6, 2023

Thumbnail image for the report In response to mass displacement from Ukraine, HIAS Europe launched the Welcome Circles program in May 2022 to enable the community-based reception and integration of people displaced from Ukraine in 12 countries across Europe. This fact sheet evaluates the program’s successes, challenges, and opportunities for growth based on feedback from Welcome Circles beneficiaries, volunteers, and coordinators.

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