Vancity accelerates refugee integration

When refugee-serving agencies in Metro Vancouver discovered a significant barrier limiting refugee integration, they approached Vancity, Canada’s largest community credit union, for help. Vancity, with its commitment to building inclusive communities for everyone and helping people become “bankable,” is an active partner in the work of refugee integration and settlement. For example, they open accounts for government-assisted refugees and refugee claimants within the first weeks of arrival in Canada.

When the new refugee protection system came into force in December 2012, one of the positive outcomes for refugee claimants was getting convention refugee status within 2-4 months of making their claim, much more quickly than under the previous system. What wasn’t anticipated, however, is that this quick turnaround puts new refugees in an impossible situation: they are eligible to apply for Permanent Residence but often do not have the $550 (single adult) application fee because they are not working (either because they don’t have a work permit yet, or because they’ve no job). Delay in applying for permanent residence means significant delay in integration.

Vancity tackled the problem head-on and developed an amazing new product, perhaps the first of its kind in Canada: full loans to refugees to help pay the Permanent Residence application fee.

Tailored to the unusual circumstances of refugees (limited identification documents, lack of credit history) the new Community Partner Refugee Loan, now in pilot stage with Kinbrace and Journey Home Community, not only fast-tracks refugees toward integration, it provides a remarkable opportunity for newcomers to establish a credit rating immediately, driving them forward economically.

On behalf of new refugees in Metro Vancouver, we say THANK YOU to Vancity!

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