Canada’s Ukraine emergency visa program is ending. What now?

Click to play video: 'Russia launches ’49 retaliatory strikes’ on Ukraine, leaving over a million without power'
Russia launches ’49 retaliatory strikes’ on Ukraine, leaving over a million without power
More than 1 million Ukrainians were left without power on Friday after Russia bombarded multiple energy facilities across Kharkiv, Odesa and Dnipro overnight with "59 retaliatory strikes." Ukrainian officials say the strikes resulted not only in widespread power outages, but water supply and transportation issues across multiple cities – Mar 22, 2024

The Canadian Immigration Lawyer Association is calling for a plan to address a looming backlog in work permit and permanent residency applications as the Ukrainian emergency visa program ends.

“We’re going to have about 200,000 Ukrainians in Canada based on this program, probably closer to 250,000. So, what is going to happen when their work permits are ultimately running down and they want to stay? That’s another thing that needs to be addressed,” immigration lawyer Lev Abramovich told Global News. “I don’t think we’re going to be deporting people back to Ukraine. So, I think a little bit more thought needs to go into the permanent residency part of the piece.”

The government launched the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program in February 2022, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine. That war is now in its third year.

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The application deadline for one of these temporary resident visas was July 15, 2023, and now the deadline for CUAET visa holders to get to Canada is March 31.

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That is the same deadline for Ukrainians already in Canada to make adjustments to their immigration status free of charge.

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CUAET visa holders can extend their stay for up to three additional years as a worker, student or visitor. Now with the program approaching its sunset date, Immigration Minister Marc Miller says there are ongoing discussions about what happens next.

“First, I’d say this we’re not sending anyone back in the face of a nuclear aggressor like Russia, as long as the war is ongoing,” Miller said at a Quebec City press conference Wednesday.

“So this is something that we will have to look at as this program starts to sunset. And we’re looking for a number of ways to make sure people are safe and welcome here in Canada, including the now close to 300,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine.”

There has been one addition to the program since its inception, a specialized family reunification pathway to permanent residency for CUAET visa holders that want to stay in Canada.

This was launched in October, 2023.

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Abramovich said that some of his clientele don’t have family to qualify for this permanent residency track and are unlikely to return to Ukraine due to their homes and communities being destroyed.

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Even when the war concludes, he said it will take years to rebuild, and there’s the possibility of landmines and other munitions being left behind.

With the war in its third year, Abramovich said he also has clients looking at applying for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Miller said that his office is open to hearing from advocacy groups on ideas to ease potential backlogs in the future.

“I would like to see a sort of temporary program for Ukrainians that will allow them to transition to permanent residency based on employment, as opposed to relatives,” Abramovich said.

“You’re again going to have a backlog. So why not, for example, take the step of creating an economic program specifically for Ukrainians, given how many have come to Canada, which will enable them to transition based on their employment as opposed to based on this extraordinary program?”

According to immigration ministry data, 960,000 emergency visas have been approved under CUAET, with around 210,000 applications refused. Roughly 3,600 applications are still being processed.

The ministry notes that not all successful applicants came to Canada, noting it’s difficult to determine exactly how many CUAET visa holders may arrive in the country.

The outstanding applications will be processed normally even after the deadline, according to the ministry.


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