In the two weeks following the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, more than 2 million people have fled Ukraine. Canada is steadfast in its support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Since January 1, 2022, over 6,100 Ukrainians have already arrived in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that Ottawa will spend $117 million for special immigration measures to hasten the arrival of Ukrainians in Canada.

In a joint news conference in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda on March 10, 2022, Trudeau stated that in addition to fast-tracking applications of Ukrainian refugees to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Canada has promised to triple the amount it will spend to match individual Canadians’ donations to the Canadian Red Cross’ Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal. This means Canada is now pledging up to $30 million, which is up from $10 million.

“I am inspired by the courage Ukrainians have displayed as they uphold the democratic ideals that we cherish in Canada. While they defend themselves against Putin’s costly war of aggression, we will provide safe haven to those who fled to protect themselves and their families. Canadians stand with Ukrainians in their time of need and we will welcome them with open arms.”

– The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Canada has a reputation for welcoming refugees, and is host to the world’s second-largest population of Ukrainian-Canadians, largely the result of former forced displacement. Many settlers arrived in the early 1890s, between 1896 and 1914, and again in the early 1920s. Ukrainian immigrants have helped shape Canada, and Canada stands now with the courageous people of Ukraine.

Following the invasion on February 24, 2022, Justin Trudeau’s cabinet and Honourable Sean Fraser of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) introduced the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel class, which sets forth special admission policies for Ukrainian nationals. Fraser announced on March 3rd, 2022 that the federal government has created two new pathways for Ukrainians fleeing their war-torn country. Under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel, there will be no limit to the number of Ukrainians who can apply.

Sean Fraser has said that under this authorization for emergency travel Canada is waiving most of its typical visa requirements. His department has created a new visa category that will allow an unlimited number of Ukrainians to come to Canada to live, work or study here for up to two years. The Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel pathway is expected to be open by March 17.

All Ukrainian nationals can apply through this new path, and it is the fastest, safest, and most efficient way for Ukrainians to come to Canada. Pending a background check and security screening (including biometrics collection), the stay in Canada for these temporary residents could be extended to 2 years.

All Ukrainians who come to Canada as part of these immigration measures will have an open work or study permit and employers will be free to hire as many Ukrainians as they want. IRCC will also issue open work permit and student permit extensions to Ukrainian visitors, workers and students who are currently in Canada and cannot safely return.

IRCC is prioritizing applications from people who currently live in Ukraine for permanent residence, proof of citizenship, temporary residence and citizenship grant for adoption. A dedicated service channel for Ukraine enquiries has been set up that will be available for clients both in Canada and abroad at 1 (613) 321-4243. Collect calls will be accepted. In addition, clients can now add the keyword “Ukraine2022” to the IRCC webform with their enquiry and their e-mail will be prioritized.

It should be noted that the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel differs from Canada’s previous resettlement efforts since it offers only temporary protection. However, Canada grants temporary protection for “at least” two years. IRCC has not yet specified what happens once temporary protection measures end. It also remains to be seen whether Ukrainians who choose to settle in Canada permanently will be required to apply for asylum and if they will need to pursue permanent residence pathways such as post-graduate and employer-sponsored visas. The March 3rd News Release only stated that IRCC would develop the details of this new permanent residence stream over the coming weeks.

Ukrainian Nationals who are not Fully Vaccinated

IRCC is granting exemptions for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated Ukrainian nationals to enter Canada. If you’re a Ukrainian national who is not fully vaccinated, you can still enter Canada if you have a temporary resident (visitor) visa, temporary resident permit or written notice of approval for an application for permanent residence in Canada. This exemption also applies if the vaccine you received isn’t currently recognized by Canada (World Health Organization approved).

When you travel, you will need to bring documents that prove your Ukrainian nationality. You will also need to meet all other public health requirements, such as quarantine and testing, including a COVID test before boarding your flight.

Reuniting with Immediate Family in Ukraine

The Government of Canada believes it’s important to keep families and loved ones together. IRCC will quickly implement a special Family Reunification Sponsorship pathway for permanent residence. Fraser announced the Government of Canada is introducing an expedited path to permanent residency (PR) for Ukrainians with families in Canada.

IRCC is initiating urgent processing of travel documents, including issuing single-journey travel documents for immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents who do not have valid passports.

Canada already has programs that let Canadian citizens and permanent residents sponsor eligible family members to come to Canada. IRCC will review all applications to see if they should be prioritized.

When reviewing your application, IRCC will prioritize it if:

  • you’re a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or person registered under the Indian Act
  • the family member you’re sponsoring is:
    • a Ukrainian national outside Canada and
    • one of the following family members is:
      • your spouse or common-law or conjugal partner
      • your dependent child (including adopted children)

Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents Living in Ukraine

Canada is urgently processing new and replacement passports and travel documents for citizens and permanent residents of Canada in Ukraine, so they can return to Canada at any time. This includes any immediate family members who wish to come with them.

The IRCC is also working at putting in place a special Family Reunification Sponsorship pathway for permanent residence for the immediate and extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents who may want to start a new life in Canada.

Where we’re at One Week In

The crisis created by the Russian invasion has reached staggering proportions. The federal government is opening up expedited pathways for getting as many of the more than two million refugees to Canada as possible. These initiatives reflect good intentions by the Canadian government and IRCC, but they have yet to explain how everything is going to work in rolling out this massive endeavour quickly.

Setting up proper security and biometrics could potentially cause a serious bottleneck. How will the IRCC fast-track this process? Relaxing some of the security measures could help. One recommendation under consideration is having IRCC reconsider which biometrics will be part of the process. Also, how will establishing Ukrainian refugees as ‘first priority’ cases impact the already extremely long backlog for non-refugee immigrants trying to come to Canada?

Where will the refugees stay, if they do not have friends and family in Canada? There are refugee groups, social service agencies and Canadian-Ukrainians saying they will be happy to take Ukrainian refugees in, but no action plan has been announced so far. MOSAIC, one of the largest settlement non-profit organizations in Canada, is one of the Vancouver agencies preparing to assist Ukrainian refugees.

The Canadian legal community and Pax Law are scrambling to determine how they may best support members of the Ukrainian diaspora, to provide vital services to families affected by this crisis. Services will include legal consultations and advice for those seeking to take advantage of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s facilitative initiatives and programs. Each refugee and family has unique needs, and the response must be different.

As more details unfold, we will likely provide an update or follow-up to this post. If you are interested in reading an update to this article in the weeks and months that follow, please comment below with any questions you’d like answered.


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