Waterloo Region has a long history of welcoming refugees and refugee claimants. During their first year in Canada and after that time, refugees living in Waterloo Region have access to many supports. This is true for all types of refugees (e.g. government-assisted, privately-sponsored, etc.).

Connect with a refugee support agency or settlement worker for more information.

In Solidarity with Ukraine

Canada and many other countries have announced a series of measures in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As a result of the conflict up to 5 million people are expected to flee Ukraine in search of safety, and Canada has responded with a series of immigration measures. 

For information on Canada's immigration response and community support to Ukrainian individuals and families staying in Ukraine and arriving in Waterloo Region, visit www.immigrationwaterlooregion.ca/ukraine

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Afghan Resettlement in Waterloo Region

The Government of Canada is working to resettle around 40,000 Afghans to Canada through two programs – one for those who have assisted Canada and one for other vulnerable Afghans.

Information on the number of people who have arrived in Canada can be found on the Government of Canada Portal. Some of those people will arrive in Waterloo Region as either government assisted refugees or via private sponsorship - it is not yet known how many in total. This is in addition to refugees from other countries that arrive in the Region on an ongoing basis.

For information on how Waterloo Region is supporting the Afghan resettlement and how community members, families and organizations can help. visit www.immigrationwaterlooregion.ca/afghanresettlement

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Settlement support

During the first year and beyond, settlement support for refugees is provided by:

Government-assisted refugees

Reception House Waterloo Region welcomes and supports government-assisted refugees by:

  • providing temporary accommodation
  • helping find permanent housing
  • applying for necessary documentation
  • providing orientation to life in Canada
  • facilitating health screening and follow-up

Case managers connect refugee newcomers to other community services. Settlement workers can also provide settlement support.

Privately sponsored refugees

The private sponsor group help privately sponsored refugees to:

  • find housing
  • get documents
  • settle in Canada

Settlement workers also provide settlement support. Private sponsors and settlement workers help connect privately sponsored refugees to other community services. 

Sponsorship agreement holders such as Mennonite Central Committee and Canadian Lutheran World Relief also provide important help.


Refugee claims

There are multiple possible pathways for refugees who want to stay in Canada.  While government assisted refugees and privately sponsored refugees are granted permanent resident status by the time they arrive in Canada, it is also possible to submit a claim for refugee protection while in Canada.  These claims for asylum can be made at the border of Canada or from within the country.  See the Government of Canada website for more information about who is eligible and how to apply. 

If you live in the Waterloo Region area and need help with your claim process you can contact COMPASS Refugee Centre.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre also helps refugee claimants with all steps in the refugee claim process, accessing local settlement supports and providing ongoing help until they become permanent residents. 

Income support, subsidies and assistance

During their first year in Canada, government-assisted refugees are financially supported by the federal government. Privately sponsored refugees are supported by their sponsorship group. Refugees can apply to the Ontario Disability Support Program at any time in their first year or after.

At the end of their first year, refugee families can apply to Ontario Works if they do not have stable employment. Income support levels after the first year vary slightly but not significantly. Families with children are also eligible for the Canada Child Benefit.

The amounts someone would receive on different income assistance programs varies based on the size and makeup of the family. See this comparison of rates for Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program or the Resettlement Assistance Program for government-assisted refugees). 

Refugee families are also eligible to apply for financial and food assistance and community housing options just like any other resident of Waterloo Region.

Language programs  

Learning English is an important first step in Canada for many refugees. Refugees can take free English language programs in their first year and beyond. Language assessment is required to enter these programs.


Employment support

Refugees can use local employment services in Waterloo Region to help with their job search. Eligibility may depend on English language levels and educational background. Refugees with professional backgrounds and good English may be able to participate in local mentorship or internship programs.

Health care and insurance

Newly arrived refugees can call 519-310-2222 x5521 for help finding a family doctor (ask for Primary Care Connect). If you need language interpretation, ask your health care provider to arrange for it in advance. If a local hospital does not provide interpretation, contact patient relations

Refugees in Ontario can get OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) upon arrival. They are provided with extra health insurance under the Interim Federal Health Program for their first year in Canada. At Month 13 and beyond, OHIP coverage will continue. Refugees that transition to other forms of income support (e.g. Ontario Works) will be able to get the same insurances as any other people on that support. Refugees who get a job may have additional insurance through their employer.


A list of dental programs for children and low income adults is available from the Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services. 

Other support

Other supports for refugees are available in Waterloo Region:


Refugees are also able to access other local programs and serviced features throughout this site, just like any other newcomer in Waterloo Region.  


Reception House Waterloo Region

675 Queen Street South (Suite 201), Kitchener

Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support

675 Queen Street South, UNIT 201, Kitchener

YMCA Immigrant & Employment Services

800 King Street W, Kitchener ON
258 Hespeler Road, Cambridge ON

KW Phone: 519-579-9622

Cambridge Phone: 519-621-1621

Email YMCA Immigrant & Employment Services