VISAS & Refugee Process from Inside Canada
This is just a short summary because there has been a lot of misleading information on social media and the Internet in general.
In two weeks Canadian government promised to open two special programs in Canada for people affected by the war in Ukraine: one for temporary stay of 2 years and another one is to sponsor additional family members to come to Canada as permanent residents.
When you call our government phone line specifically established for dealing with the situation in Ukraine, they will advise you to complete the application form to apply as refugee from abroad. I would not advise you to do so. To be eligible as a refugee, you must:
If your relatives are outside Canada and follow this route, their refugee claim will be dealt with through a process called resettlement. This is a lengthy process and not the right path to get your relatives to Canada at the moment since there is no special refugee program for Ukrainians. Resettlement means that in order to come to Canada as a refugee, they have to be referred by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), a designated referral organization, or a private sponsorship group.
Another alternative for your relatives is to come to Canada as a visitor and, depending on the development of the current situation, decide whether to apply as a refugee.
Currently, the Canadian government gives an option for Ukrainians with temporary status to obtain a work permit which is great. For a lot of people, who love Ukraine, new immigration measures give an opportunity to stay in Canada temporarily without applying for asylum. Asylum or refugee claim would be a forced measure for them only in case if the war persists (and I hope it does not) and if there is no effective government in Ukraine to protect its citizens.
The new temporary residence program for Ukrainians (promised to start two weeks from march 3rd) - Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel will make it easy to come to Canada (not clear whether biometric requirements will be eliminated) but I suspect that it will be similar to Electronic Travel Authorization which checks your name for criminality/inadmissibility. From the IRCC announcement it sounds like this program gives Ukrainians the right to travel to Canada and then once in Canada, Ukrainians can apply for open work permits. As for the second program - to sponsor family for permanent residence, no instructions yet, but I suspect Canada will want mostly people of working age since our labour market is struggling. 😀 It seems that these 2 programs are a trade off for some sort of moratorium on making refugee claims.
Your relatives in Ukraine still need a visa to travel to Canada, so apply for a visa.
If your relatives cross the border to Poland or Romania or other neighbouring countries, there is no need for a Ukrainian to register as a refugee in the EU countries currently, as they have a right to stay for 90 days as visitors, so do not register as refugees. The European Union member states have also approved a new directive granting Ukrainians the right to live and work in the EU for one year, and such program might be extended for another 2 years with a possibility to apply for a long-term asylum if the Russian invasion is not stopped.
For Ukrainians that have obtained a visa and decided to make a refugee claim in Canada, the process starts once they board a flight to Canada. They can either make a claim when they land at the Canadian airport or apply for refugee claim online later on.
It's faster to make a refugee claim at the airport: tell the border officer that you want to make a refugee claim, ask for an interpreter, most applications will be completed with the interpreter right away, mention that you need a work permit. The border officer will take your passport, provide you a certified copy of the passport and ask you to come to an interview in a few weeks at the Airport road.
If you are arriving to Lester B. Pearson International Airport, you will need to bring your "refugee story" to the Airport road in Mississauga (please hire a lawyer for this part of the process, as it will make or break your case during the refugee claim hearing). Please do not provide any additional documents to the immigration/border officers without first consulting with a lawyer!
This page is being updated on a regular basis as the situation evolves and the governments in Europe and Canada announce the programs to help Ukrainians who are fleeing the war.
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