Posted on October 29, 2021

Afghan Refugees Can Be Sponsored by Private Citizens Under New Program

Jessica Donati and Michelle Hackman, Wall Street Journal, October 25, 2021

Private citizens will be allowed to sponsor Afghan families under a new program launched Monday by the Biden administration, as overwhelmed agencies have left thousands stuck on military bases in harsh conditions waiting to be resettled.

The Sponsor Circle Program will be run along with a nonprofit that was set up last month to help refugees settle in the U.S., filling the role of traditional resettlement agencies. The program will allow private citizens to group together to sponsor families and help them access housing and other necessities like food, clothing and education.

The White House has said it is expecting to resettle approximately 95,000 Afghans in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s return to power.

“Americans of all walks of life have expressed strong interest in helping to welcome these individuals,” the State Department said.

A huge backlog in processing is putting Afghan families in the difficult position of choosing whether to spend months in camps, often sleeping in tents and with limited access to toilets and showers, or depart after completing their paperwork but before being assigned caseworkers, who help with school enrollment, medical appointments and other needs.


The evacuation came at a time when the refugee resettlement system, run by the State Department but administered by nine nonprofit organizations, had slashed capacity as U.S. admissions of refugees fell to record lows during the Trump administration. These groups were in the process of rebuilding staff and relationships when Afghanistan suddenly collapsed.


The Biden administration had been planning to launch a private refugee sponsorship program since it took office, and the idea was included in an executive order issued by President Biden in February.

The Community Sponsorship Hub, the nonprofit set up to work with the government, quickly shifted its mission in August as the mass evacuation of Afghan refugees from Kabul was under way.


As of this week, resettlement organizations have told the administration they have capacity to resettle about 62,000 Afghans, a figure that falls short of the 95,000 the White House has said may need to be resettled in total.

Under normal procedures, refugee resettlement organizations are given $2,275 per person by the State Department to cover initial expenses for 90 days. Under the private sponsorship model, that money would come from donors.

The Afghans enrolled in the private sponsorship program are still eligible for all the other government benefits afforded other refugees, including several months of Medicaid, food assistance and English lessons.