At the onset of the invasion of Ukraine, the Canadian Government immediately began working to assist Ukrainians affected by the Russian invasion. Canada, having a 1.4 million Ukrainian diaspora, supported Ukraine’s fight for its independence and democracy.
In response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Government of Canada has launched the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET). The CUAET is a unique, special temporary residence pathway for Ukrainians affected by the invasion that allows them to work, study, and stay in Canada until it is safe for them to return home. All Ukrainian nationals and their family members (their spouses or common-law partners, their dependent children, and dependent children of their dependent children) are eligible to come to Canada under the CUAET.
Unlike other programs, the CUAET does not have a cap on the number of visitor visas, work permits, and study permits under this program. This temporary measure aims to help Ukrainians come to Canada temporarily and gain valuable Canadian work or education experience which can help set them up for their future permanent residency application.
IRCC eased the application process for Ukrainian nationals
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) continue to process the increased volume of requests from Ukrainians. IRCC relocated staff, supplies, and equipment in Moldova, Romania, Poland, and Austria to increase operational readiness and provided them with mobile biometric kits to take fingerprints of Ukrainian nationals to help them meet the security and biometrics requirements and ease their travel to Canada.
Depending on the situation of applicants, Ukrainian citizens who have lost or do not have a passport can still get a temporary resident permit. For these applicants, IRCC will issue single journey travel documents on a case-by-case basis, where appropriate.
Special measures for Ukrainian citizens and temporary residents
Under the CUAET, Ukrainians and their immediate family members (of any nationality) may stay in Canada for up to 3 years under the new temporary residence pathway. Ukrainian citizens applying from Ukraine or abroad must apply online for a Canadian visitor visa and provide their biometrics. Ukrainian citizens can give biometrics at any visa application centre (VAC) outside of Ukraine as VACs in Kyiv and Lviv are temporarily closed. The Canadian Government encourages all Ukrainians to apply for a 3-year open work permit at the same time as their visitor visa application to be eligible to work in Canada. For standard, non-complex applications, the CUAET will facilitate the rapid processing of electronic visa applications of Ukrainian nationals within 2 weeks of receipt of a complete application. All Ukrainian applicants will have to undergo standard background checks and be screened before coming into Canada.
The Government of Canada has waived many regular requirements associated with a normal visitor visa or work permit for Ukrainians to ease the application process. Ukrainian children may register for elementary or high school and start attending it as soon as they arrive in Canada. Those who want to obtain a post-secondary education may apply for a study permit once they are in Canada.
Ukrainian citizens who are currently in Canada on a temporary resident visa can either extend their visitor status, study, or work permit for 3 years, or apply for an open work permit.
The Government of Canada aims to help Ukrainian citizens and their family members to come to Canada as quickly and as safely as possible by adjusting operations in offices across the global network. To ease the burden on Ukrainian applicants, IRCC has waived all application and extension fees, including the visa application fee and biometric collection fee.
IRCC will urgently process travel documents for Ukrainian-Canadians, permanent residents, and their immediate family members and prioritize and fast-track the processing of citizenship grants for adoptions, and permanent and temporary residence applications. In addition, the Government will also prioritize the renewal of work and study permit applications from Ukrainians currently in Canada.
Ukrainians coming to Canada are also exempt from Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination entry requirements. However, they still must meet all other public health requirements for travel, quarantine, and get tested if needed. All Ukrainian travellers to Canada also must use ArriveCAN and provide all required information.
Ukrainian applicants have been exempted from completing an immigration medical exam (IME). However, they can be requested to complete and pay for an IME within 3 months of arrival in Canada to screen for reportable communicable diseases if they applied and received an open work permit.
Family reunification sponsorship pathway for Ukrainian citizens
Canada recognizes that some family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents may want to start a new life in Canada. Currently, IRCC is developing a special family reunification sponsorship pathway for permanent residence for Ukrainian-Canadian’s immediate and extended family members. However, the details of this pathway have not been released yet and will only be available in the coming weeks.
Possible transitions to permanent residency
There are a few cases that allow Ukrainian nationals to obtain permanent residency (PR) after coming to Canada.
- Sponsorship programs: Canadian citizens and permanent residents 18 years old and above can sponsor certain relatives to come to Canada.
- Special sponsorship program for Ukrainian citizens: Canadian citizens and permanent residents 18 years old and above can sponsor their immediate family members (spouse, common-law partner, and dependent child) affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This pathway, most likely, will be similar to the pathway for PR to the Afghan family members of Canadians.
- Economic pathways: Skilled Ukrainian nationals can immigrate to Canada and obtain a PR via economic programs after arriving in Canada. Those who meet the eligibility requirements can apply for PR immediately, while Ukrainians who do not have enough experience can apply after working in Canada for at least one year.
- Humanitarian and compassionate grounds: in some specific cases, Ukrainian citizens can also ask for humanitarian and compassionate grounds to obtain permanent resident status in Canada. Humanitarian and compassionate grounds apply to individuals with exceptional cases, and the applications submitted under this pathway are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
What can Ukrainian citizens do to come to Canada?
- To come to Canada, first, Ukrainian nationals have to apply for a visitor visa under CUAET and acquire an open work permit. Obtaining a work permit is an essential part of the application process since it enables the applicant to work in Canada and then apply for PR. After starting work, applicants must begin thinking of getting medical coverage. Eligibility requirements vary across the provinces. It is expected that the provincial governments will provide medical coverage for Ukrainian citizens coming to Canada under CUAET, however, the official clarifications are expected to be published later in April.
- Since the Canadian Government has not announced all measures for Ukrainian nationals, they can wait for new news to be announced. More measures are expected to be launched in the coming weeks.
- Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their elderly relatives under the Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP). The application process for the PGP 2022 has not been determined yet. This year, IRCC aims to invite 25,000 immigrants under the PGP.
- If a Ukrainian national cannot stay in Canada under any programs, he/she can consider applying for permanent resident status based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. IRCC will not look at requests submitted on humanitarian and compassionate grounds from temporary resident applicants. Only those applying for a PR can consider this program.
Pros and Cons of Making a Refugee Claim
Currently, many Ukrainian nationals think about making a refugee claim after coming to Canada. However, according to the Government of Canada, the CUAET is not a refugee immigration stream. Thus, before making a claim, applicants must carefully think about all other possible ways. Both those Ukrainians in Canada who are on work or study permits and those abroad must consider that they will not obtain refugee status immediately after making a claim. According to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, the average processing time for refugee claims is 24 months. Since the current situation in Ukraine can drastically change over that time, refugee claims made by Ukrainian citizens can be rejected. We recommend not to make a refugee claim for now as it deprives your temporary resident status and makes you unable to apply for a PR through other immigration pathways. Moreover, the only cases with good chances for success are only those ones, where the Ukrainian authorities persecuted Ukrainian nationals for political, religious, ethnic, or other reasons. The persecution must be well documented, and the evidence will be required for the application.
After arriving in Canada
Starting in early April 2022, the Canadian Red Cross will provide arrival services at the Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver international airports, providing translation services, as well as information in newcomers’ language of choice to help them connect with government and community services. In addition, the Government of Canada continues working closely with provinces and territories to support Ukrainians arriving in Canada. Currently, settlement services are delivered through more than 550 agencies across the country. Moreover, the Canadian Government will provide the Ukrainian newcomers with language training programs, information about life in Canada, services to help access the labour market, activities that promote connections with communities, services targeted to the needs of women, seniors, youth, and LGBTQ2+ persons, and other settlement supports. We will continue to make updates on the latest developments on this issue. If you are a Ukrainian citizen who wants to come to Canada, please do not hesitate to contact Abramovich & Tchern Immigration Lawyers.