The federal government will extend the emergency visa application period for Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s war to July 15.
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser’s update Wednesday comes as the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program (CUAET), which expedites visas and temporary residency permits for Ukrainians and their families, was set to expire March 31.
Under this plan – one of two special programs that were announced in March of last year – Ukrainians can stay in the country for up to three years.
“We remain committed to helping those fleeing Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine. We continue working to provide Ukrainians with a temporary safe haven and the vital settlement services and supports they need to thrive in communities across Canada,” Fraser said.
“Canada will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine, including those who’ve been forced to flee Russia’s senseless invasion.”
This temporary program allows Ukrainians and family members of Ukrainians to apply for a free visitor visa and an open work permit as well as study in Canada during their stay. After July 15, Ukrainians wishing to come to Canada from abroad can still apply for a visa or a work or study permit through existing temporary resident programs, but they will be subject to fees and standard requirements, the government said.
Canada is also offering a special family reunification sponsorship program for permanent residency, which allows for a wider circle of family members to be resettled in Canada than is allowed under traditional strains.
Since January 2022, 190,970 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada, including CUAET applicants and returning Canadian permanent residents. At least 616,429 applications through the CUAET program have been approved out of 943,730 that have been received.
There is growing pressure on the federal government to extend the existing CUAET as the war in Ukraine has entered its second year and shows no signs of ending.
Earlier this month, Conservative MPs, including shadow immigration minister Tom Kmiec, wrote to Fraser calling for an extension to be announced “without delay,” reminding him that the war is far from over.
Responding to a question last week about the emergency visa program for Ukrainians, Fraser said he expects to share more news in advance of the March 31 deadline.
“When I see children, the same age as my own kids, that are going to school and more than anything are safe in our communities, I’d do this again 100 times out of 100,” Fraser said.
— with files from Global News’ Sean Boynton