This article addresses the tension between state sovereignty and refugee protection. The application of refugee law is often harshly criticized with such modern tendencies as increased border controls and visa regimes, and growing security and identity concerns creating impediments for persons requesting protection. Consequently, a common concern is how to improve refugee protection to make it independent from states’ evolving political interests and changing preferences. In order to explore international law – specifically, refugee protection – beyond state sovereignty, this article draws from Derrida’s notions of unconditional hospitality and sovereignty. To envisage the practical application of these philosophical ideas, the article considers the operation of the Canadian private sponsorship of refugees program. The article argues that individuals can be the bearers of an other sovereignty, distinct from that of states, and can implement international obligations in the area of refugee and human rights law more efficiently. The application of this distinct sovereignty also extends a type of unconditional hospitality, as defined by Derrida. The article concludes that the private sponsorship of refugees program should be regarded as more than just an interesting way to implement states’ obligations. It should be seen as an example of, and opportunity for, innovative development in international law, which could provide a more human dimension, enabling more persons to get the protection to which they are entitled.