Politics

Ottawa reveals details of emergency immigration program for Ukrainian refugees

The federal government announced Thursday a special immigration program that will allow Ukrainian refugees to live and work in Canada for up to three years.

Canada has pledged to take in an 'unlimited number' of Ukrainians fleeing the war

Ukrainian refugees rest inside a tent in Medyka, Poland after fleeing the Russian invasion. (Visar Kryeziu/The Associated Press)

The federal government announced Thursday a special immigration program that will allow Ukrainian refugees to live and work in Canada for up to three years.

The program, called the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel, waives many of the typical requirements for Canadian visa applications.

Applicants do not have to hold valid passports and family members of Ukrainian refugees "of any nationality" can also apply for temporary Canadian residency through the program.

"To the Ukrainians who are defending the values we hold dear, we stand with you — not only in our words but also in our actions. Canada will offer safe haven to your families while you fight on the front lines of a war to defend your freedom to the benefit of the entire world," said Immigration Minister Sean Fraser in a news release.

The Russian invasion that began three weeks ago has triggered an immense exodus of refugees across Ukraine's western borders. It's estimated that three million people have fled the country so far.

The federal government has pledged to take in an "unlimited" number of Ukrainians fleeing the war with Russia.

WATCH | Immigration minister discusses emergency program on CBC's Power & Politics

Canada launches emergency program to process temporary resident visas for Ukrainians

3 months ago
Duration 7:39
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser joins Power & Politics to discuss the new emergency immigration program for Ukrainians that waives many of the typical requirements for Canadian visa applications.

Ukrainian citizens already in Canada can also apply to extend their stay through the program.

Ottawa says it will waive all fees typically associated with immigration applications for Ukrainians.

The government also has launched a "Jobs for Ukraine" website which will allow employers hoping to support Ukrainian refugees to post available jobs.

Applicants must still provide the government with biometric data, including fingerprints and a photo.

Do you have questions about Russia's invasion of Ukraine? Send an email to ask@cbc.ca

Ukrainian applicants and their family members will also be exempt from COVID-19 vaccination requirements, although the government says all incoming refugees will be subject to other public health restrictions, including testing and quarantine.

The federal Conservatives and NDP have pressed the government to waive entirely the visa requirement for Ukrainian refugees.

Jenny Kwan, the NDP immigration critic, said Ukrainian refugees hoping to come to Canada still face hurdles that Ottawa could eliminate.

"Accessing a biometrics centre in a neighbouring country may still be onerous and difficult and will undoubtedly delay the process," she said.

Kwan cited Ireland as an example to follow. Ireland has temporarily waived its visa requirements for refugees fleeing the war.

Private groups also bringing refugees to Canada

The newly announced program will be the primary pathway for Ukrainian refugees coming to Canada, but some private groups are already working to bring Ukrainians to the country.

Two Ukrainian children with cancer arrived with their families in Toronto for treatment at The Hospital for Sick Children earlier this week.

The families had fled Ukraine for Poland before being transferred to Canada with the assistance of Steve Day, a former military commander who now runs the consulting firm Reticle Ventures.

Day said Ukrainian children in need of medical treatment are generally best served by staying in Europe, but some may need to come to Canada to ease the strain on countries facing an influx of refugees.

WATCH | How two Ukrainian child cancer patients arrived in Canada

Two Ukrainian children with cancer have landed in Canada, says SickKids

3 months ago
Duration 4:33
Former Joint Task Force 2 Commander Steve Day joins Power & Politics to discuss the operation he spearheaded to bring two Ukrainian children with cancer to Canada to be treated at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

"There is the possibility of doing more of this, but first and foremost it's about those children," Day told CBC's Power & Politics.

Day said that while his group has no immediate plans to bring over more children in need of care, preparations to fly them to Canada can be set in motion within a matter of hours.

"There may be a need for more … and if that call comes, we are poised and ready to react," he said.

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