With the introduction of the 2002 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), Canada shifted its refugee selection criteria from adaptability to vulnerability. Little is known about the long-term impact of this policy change on the economic self-sufficiency of Government-Assisted Refugees (GARs). Using data from the Longitudinal Immigration Database (IMDB), we compare the long-term receipt of social assistance (SA) incomes among three GAR cohorts: those admitted pre-IRPA (1997–2001), during the transition period (2002–2004) and post-IRPA (2005–2009). We find GARs admitted during the transition period and post-IRPA have higher SA rates than their pre-IRPA counterparts three to eight years after arrival, and the gap is explained mostly by the former’s lower employment rates. After year eight, however, the gap starts to decline. This suggests while post-IRPA GARs require a more extended financial assistance, prioritising humanitarian goals in refugee admission policies does not lead to their prolonged welfare receipt.