Ukrainians fleeing their homeland will be able to come to Canada in unlimited numbers starting in two weeks under a Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel pathway, says Immigration Minister Sean Fraser.
“I am inspired by the courage Ukrainians have displayed as they uphold the democratic ideals that we cherish in Canada,” says Fraser.
“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.”
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Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war on the neighbouring country of Ukraine and quickly invaded only last week, on Feb. 24.
Within hours of the declaration of war, gunfire and explosions rang out in Kyiv, a city of three million people, in what is the biggest assault on a European state since the Second World War.
UN Says More Than One Million Ukrainians Have Fled Country
Russian forces had taken control of the Ukrainian city of Kherson in the south by Thursday and residents in Mariupol were then under siege, trapped by intense shelling.
By Thursday this week, more than 6,100 Ukrainians had arrived in Canada since the start of the year. But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the vast numbers looking to flee the war-torn country.
“In just seven days we have witnessed the exodus of one million refugees from Ukraine to neighbouring countries,” tweeted Filippo Grandhi, the United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees, on Wednesday.
Under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel, Ukrainians will be able to come to Canada, pending background checks and security screenings, and stay for at least two years, including extensions to that permit.
All Ukrainians who come to Canada as part of these measures will be eligible to apply for open work permits, making it easier for employers to quickly hire Ukrainian nationals.
Until that pathway comes into effect, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is encouraging Ukrainians to apply through all programs and reassuring them that theirs will be the first ones processed.
Ukrainians Already In Canada Can Stay During War
Canadian immigration announced last month that Ukrainians already in Canada on a temporary basis are now able to apply to extend their status as a visitor, student or worker.
Among the new immigration measures announced since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war are:
- a dedicated service channel for Ukraine enquiries that will be available for clients both in Canada and abroad at 613-321-4243, with collect calls accepted. In addition, clients can now add the keyword “Ukraine2022” to the IRCC Webform with their enquiry and their e-mail will be prioritized;
- 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;
- an updated web page to provide current information on measures. This page will include content in Ukrainian for ease of reference;
- permission for Ukrainians currently in Canada to extend their stay or stay longer in Canada by prioritizing the renewal of work and study permits, and extending a policy that allows individuals to apply for a work permit from within Canada. This policy would allow temporary residents who receive a job offer to remain in Canada and start working while they wait for their work permit application to be processed, and;
- the issuance of open work permits to Ukrainian visitors, workers and students who are currently in Canada and cannot go home, so they can stay longer if they wish. Fees are being waived, retroactive to Feb. 22, for certain travel and immigration documents, such as Canadian passports, permanent resident travel documents, proofs of citizenship, visitor visas, and work and study permits.
IRCC Says Special Family Reunification Pathway For Ukrainians On The Way
Canadian immigration officials have also upped their game in Ukraine, relocating staff and moving additional supplies and equipment, such as mobile biometric collection kits, in anticipation of an increased volume of requests.
The IRCC has also adjusted operations in offices across its global network to ensure service continuity for Ukraine. Online options are available for most applications.
The IRCC is also planning to soon put 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.
Ottawa is working with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress to hammer out the details of that program and expects to unveil it in a few weeks.
“To the people of Ukraine, you have inspired the world with your courage and resilience, and Canada is here to support you,” the IRCC states on its website. “We are actively working to launch these measures and stand ready to welcome more Ukrainians to Canada.”