Other ways for admission to third countries (Complementary Pathways)

What are complementary pathways?

Complementary pathways are safe and regulated avenues for persons in need of international protection that provide for a lawful stay in a third country where their international protection needs are met. 

Types of complementary pathways

UNHCR works with States, civil society, private sector organizations, academia, governmental organizations and refugees to identify, establish and expand complementary pathways for admission to third countries.  

Diverse in nature, complementary pathways may include one or a combination of the following: 

  • Family reunification procedures – these are often limited by States to nuclear family members, but some States have programmes for extended family members  
  • Labour mobility pathways  
  • Education pathways  
  • Humanitarian pathways  
  • Private sponsorship pathways   
  • Other safe and regulated entry and stay options, including hybrids of the above 


What are employment pathways?

Employment pathways, otherwise known as labour mobility schemes, are safe and regulated avenues that allow qualified refugees to enter or stay in another country to work, providing them with the right to either permanent or temporary residence. Thanks to these pathways, refugees can be safely admitted to a third country based on a concrete job offer or linked to specific sector labour shortages while having their protection needs met and their rights safeguarded.  

What are complementary education pathways?

Complementary education pathways are higher education opportunities through which refugees are admitted to a third country, i.e., a country other than their country of origin and the first country in which they have sought protection. Access of refugees to these opportunities is based on their education and language skills as opposed to their protection needs. Education opportunities offered through such pathways should allow for a long-term solution through a regular migration system or asylum system in the new country instead of short-term study and scholarship programmes.    

What is private sponsorship?

Private sponsorship programmes provide individuals, groups of individuals or organisations with an opportunity to sponsor refugees to come to their country, thus offering them protection and a new home.  

In private sponsorship, the sponsors directly engage in the efforts to admit displaced persons in their country. They are the ones identifying, selecting, and supporting the entry and stay of people in need of international protection, who are not referred by UNHCR.  

While sponsors can freely choose whom to support, the individuals sponsored most often include nuclear and/or extended family members of the sponsors or people known to the community.   

Do I have to be a recognized refugee to benefit from complementary pathways?

Each complementary pathway program has its own criteria and eligibility requirements that are determined by the organization that manages the program in coordination with the government of the country of destination. Some programs are open to both recognized refugees and asylum-seekers pending refugee status determination, while others are only open to those who have been determined to be refugees. You should check the requirements of the program when considering whether to apply. 

If you are accepted for a complementary pathway in a third country, you should be aware that the Government of Kenya will be required to issue authorization for you to depart Kenya. Normally, such authorization is only issued to recognized refugees, though asylum-seekers have been able to depart on a case-by-case basis. UNHCR will do whatever we can to assist anyone accepted for a complementary pathway to obtain authorization to depart Kenya. 

See also

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