Canada should wait before it offers Ukrainians on temporary resident visas the opportunity to become permanent residents as it could send the wrong message to those still fighting for their freedom back home, experts say.
“We want to, generally, encourage the eight to 11 million people that fled to go back and rebuild,” Ihor Michalchyshyn, chief executive officer of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, reportedly told the Canadian Press.
Any move by Ottawa to offer Ukrainians permanent residency would likely have to be closely co-ordinated with the Ukrainian government, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada director Daniel Béland reportedly told the news agency.
In diplomatic circles, a premature offer of permanent residency to Ukrainians could be seen as a sign that Ottawa is less-than-optimistic about Ukraine’s chances of winning this war and beat back Russian forces.
“This is something that certainly should involve a discussion with the Ukrainian government,” Béland reportedly said. “At the same time, we don’t know how long this conflict will be. It’s unlikely to end any time soon.”
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Immigration Minister Sean Fraser is widely expected to soon announce a program to grant permanent residency to Ukrainians with familial ties. But a permanent residency program for other Ukrainians is thought to be unlikely for at least another year.
That is because Ottawa wants to continue to show support for the Ukraine’s fight for freedom against the onslaught of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces.
They invaded the Ukraine in February last year. Canada responded by opening its arms to Ukrainians and putting in place the Canada-Ukraine Authorizations for Emergency Travel (CUAET) pathway on March 17, 2022.
In April, Reuters reported that since the start of that war as many as 354,000 Russian and Ukrainian soldiers had been killed or injured.
An assessment reportedly collated by the U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency reveals Russia had by then suffered 189,500 to 223,000 casualties in all, including 35,500 to 43,000 killed in action and 154,000 to 180,000 wounded.
The Ukraine had reportedly suffered 124,500 to 131,000 casualties in total, including 15,500 to 17,500 killed in action and 109,000 to 113,500 wounded in action.
As the war has raged on, Ukrainians fleeing have been fleeing to the safety of Canada through the CUAET Canada and Immigration Minister Sean Fraser extended the program for those Ukrainians still outside of Canada to July 15 earlier this year.
“It is unbelievable when you see so many open hearts, open doors of the houses, many Canadians who welcomed Ukrainian families for the first days and weeks upon their arrival,” Yuliya Kovaliv, the Ukrainian ambassador to Canada, reportedly told ABC News.
CUAET Will Keep Accepting Applications From Overseas Until July 15
There has been no indication, however, that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will extend the CUAET pathway beyond mid-July.
Under that pathway, Ukrainians and their family members have until then to apply overseas for a CUAET visa free of charge. Anyone already holding a CUAET visa will have until March 31 next year to travel to Canada under the special measures.
And those already in Canada with CUAET visas have until March 31 next year to extend or adjust their temporary status through these measures, free of charge.
“Settlement services will remain available to Ukrainians and their family members after they arrive so that they can fully participate in Canadian communities while they are here,” notes the IRCC on its website.
“Ukrainians and their family members will also continue to benefit from the one-time transitional financial support, as well as from access to emergency accommodations for up to two weeks, if needed after they arrive in Canada.”
“We remain committed to helping those fleeing Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine,” said Fraser in March.
“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. Canada will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine, including those who’ve been forced to flee Russia’s senseless invasion.”
Proper Security Precautions
Ottawa upped its immigration application processing capacity in Europe after implementing the CUAET pathway and also sent mobile biometrics kits to Warsaw, Vienna and Bucharest to take the fingerprints and portrait photos of prospective Ukrainian refugees in a bid to ensure proper security precautions were taken with the surge in applications.
The government also increased its federal settlement programs to include language training, orientation, employment assistance and other supports for Ukrainians as they settle into their new communities.
In addition to settlement services, Ukrainians fleeing to Canada are also offered transitional financial assistance of $3,000 per adult and $1,500 per child.
“These funds will help Ukrainian nationals and their family members meet their basic needs, such as transportation and longer-term housing, as they arrive in communities across Canada and find a job,” notes IRCC on its website.
“Settlement services will remain available to Ukrainians and their family members after they arrive so that they can fully participate in Canadian communities while they are here. Ukrainians and their family members will also continue to benefit from the one-time transitional financial support, as well as from access to emergency accommodations for up to two weeks, if needed, after they arrive in Canada.”
Ukrainians Will Still Be Able To Immigrate To Canada Through Other Programs After July 15
Once the CUAET stops taking applications from overseas in mid-July, Ukrainians wishing to come to Canada from abroad will still be able to apply for a visa or a work or study permit through the IRCC’s existing temporary resident programs but will be subject to fees and standard requirements.
Among the immigration measures announced since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war for Ukrainians are:
- a dedicated service channel for Ukraine enquiries that is available for clients both in Canada and abroad on 613-321-4243, with collect calls accepted. In addition, clients can add the keyword “Ukraine2022” to the IRCC Web form with their enquiry and their e-mail is then 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 includes 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 allows 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 last year, for certain travel and immigration documents, such as Canadian passports, permanent resident travel documents, proofs of citizenship, visitor visas, and work and study permits.