September 25, 2016


Research conducted by Purpose Capital and the Carleton Centre for Community Innovation identified several micro-loan funds and programs that provide migrants and refugees with access to affordable finance. In many cases, these programs are intended to support professionally trained migrants and migrants that are skilled in a trade to access training, and/or certification leading to employment in the field in which they were internationally trained. Some of these programs and funds may also be used to provide small loans to migrant entrepreneurs. A key condition for success of these programs is the provision of non-financial supports such as career planning and financial literacy training.

Some examples of micro-loan funds and programs for migrants and refugees include:


Immigrant Access Fund Canada (IAF) helps migrants initiate the process of accreditation including licensing and training necessary to secure employment in their profession or trade. Individuals and foundations act as guarantors of loans made to eligible newcomers. The program began in 2005 in Alberta and expanded nationally (excluding Quebec) in 2014 to address a key gap in services for immigrants and respond to an immediate and growing need for skills. Partners funding and delivering the program include: the Government of Canada and the provincial governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. It is estimated that the real rates of return to public funds invested in the program are $3 for every $1 invested (Emery and Ferrer 2015) as a result of increased tax income and reduced dependence on social programs.


The SEED Winnipeg Recognition Counts program offers accessible, low-interest loans to low income skilled immigrants to help them meet Canada’s re-accreditation and upgrading and/or training requirements for employment in the fields for which they have obtained education outside of Canada. Loans can be made up to $10,000 and the loans are character-based, where individuals are referred and supported by SEED Winnipeg. The goal of the program is assist newcomers to Canada in gaining qualification recognition and employment in their professional field of expertise.


Using a portion of revenue generated from the credit union’s savings accounts, the program “directly supports the community in fighting poverty and achieving economic self-reliance” by providing newcomers to Canada with access to small loans to assist with finding employment in their chosen field. The loans are character-based and borrowers receive access to financial literacy training and other relevant supports that are offered in partnership with community partners in the settlement and integration sector.


The proposed fund will be piloted in Germany, Sweden and France, and for first four years it will provide grants to micro-finance institutions in Europe that provide loans to refugees for entrepreneurship. Over time, it is anticipated that the fund will use a collateralized loan obligation structure that blends capital from a variety of investors (including pension funds, foundations, development financial institutions, etc.) with different levels of risk tolerance.


The lending program provides eligible migrants with access to small loans (approx. $500 US) to cover the costs of their application for deferred action on deportation. The deferred action allows youth migrants subject to deportation to apply for education and employment opportunities in the United States while delaying their deportations.


The Casa de Maryland program assists permanent residents in the United States that have not sought status as citizen as a result of financial, legal and language barriers. The micro-loan program aims to “ lower the financial barriers to naturalization while simultaneously building an individual’s credit and financial literacy.” Expected benefits for migrants include better access to jobs, eligibility for academic scholarships and reduced reliance on social assistance.  A pilot program in Maryland between Casa De Maryland and Citibank resulted in a 100% repayment rate of the loans.


A for-profit investment fund that invests in refugee and host country entrepreneurs. The program is innovative in its design, taking what it refers to as a ‘market-building systems approach’ to leverage its investments by intentionally targeting supply chain of the refugee business, in order to establish linkages between these refugee and host country entrepreneurs.


A Lebanese non-profit micro-finance institution that focuses on supporting micro-entrepreneurs, including refugees, in developing sustainable businesses in Lebanon.