Special program for Ukrainians | Comprehensive visas

You are from Donetsk and have supported Russia’s war against Ukraine from the beginning. You found refuge in Russia to escape the fighting, but you didn’t want to be mobilized by the Russian army and sent to the front. What to do? Apply for a three-year visa for Canada! You are eligible.

If you were an employee of the Russian forces when they occupied Kherson and committed war crimes there.

Your loyalty will not be questioned. Even in the first days of your arrival in Canada, you will be given financial assistance: as soon as you open a bank account in the country, USD 3,000 for each adult and USD 1,500 for each child will be deposited.

You’ll also be entitled to a number of services to help you settle in, including a three-year work permit, free temporary housing and, if you live in Quebec, a health insurance card.

Surprising? However, this is possible under the terms of a visa program for Ukrainians introduced by the federal government last March after Russia invaded the Eastern European country.

A Ukrainian passport and a biometric test are enough to open the doors of Canada.

And this observation is not only theoretical. “I have applied for a visa since last March. During mobilization [annoncée par Vladimir Poutine] started, I left as soon as possible,” Oleksii, a newcomer whom I met at the end of last month, told me. He hastily left Crimea, which was annexed to Russia in 2014, and went to Canada. He asked me to use only his name so as not to harm his family. I will tell you about this in the second column on Tuesday.

This unprecedented visa program is gaining unprecedented popularity.

As of November 13, 689,854 people with Ukrainian passports and their relatives applied for such visas, and 420,196 people received them.

Apart from about 2100 applications rejected for various reasons, other applications will be investigated in the coming months.


Ukrainian refugees arrived at Montreal-Trudeau airport on May 29. Ukrainians and their families are welcomed and welcomed by the provincial government booth and offered assistance for their temporary settlement in the country.

Not all visa holders boarded a plane to come to Canada. From the 1st yearer In January, more than 117,000 Ukrainians and their family members arrived in the country by obtaining permanent residence or visas within the framework of a special program. As of November 6, 79,556 people have applied for the financial assistance offered by the government.

Others with a Canadian visa in their pocket can decide to come to the country at any time during the next three years.

These numbers are staggering. By comparison, Canada receives an average of 30,000 to 50,000 asylum seekers per year. Since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, Canada has taken in about 22,000 Afghans, despite promises to take in twice as many.

“Canada made it easier for anyone with a Ukrainian passport to come to the country. He opened big, big, big doors,” says Katrusia Smolynec, president of the Montreal branch of the Ukrainian National Federation.

Although he noted that most of the new arrivals came from Ukraine to escape the war, he did not hide the fact that the complete lack of instructions in the visa program is a source of some concern.

In general, the Ukrainian public has a slightly skewed view of young people who come here. Some of them have been in Russia for years and came because they did not want to be mobilized. There is doubt about them.

Katrusia Smolynec, president of the Montreal branch of the Ukrainian National Federation

Some visas also benefit Ukrainians in the diaspora who lived outside their countries of origin at the beginning of the war. According to the United Nations, in 2019 there are more than ten million people in this situation, scattered between Russia, Kazakhstan, the United States, Italy and Germany, to name only the most difficult destinations.

“For some people, it becomes an easy immigration program. For them, it goes much faster than the usual process. However, when you look at all the newcomers, the vast majority had no intention of coming to Canada before the invasion,” he said.I Smolynec. The latter praises the generosity of the Canadian government, but would like to see it extended to citizens of other countries at war.


People fleeing Ukraine’s Kherson region arrived at the Dzhankoy train station in Crimea on October 21.

So why build a visa system with significant financial benefits without considering the needs of applicants? Behind the scenes in the immigration community, some compare the visa program for Ukrainians to the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB), which was paid to millions of Canadians after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview, federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser explains that his government first wanted to move quickly when establishing this unprecedented program. “Our main focus was the speed of execution. There were millions of people running at the same time [l’Ukraine]. We haven’t seen that since World War II. We wanted to contribute, be part of the solution and make sure people get to a safe place,” he explains.


Sean Fraser, Minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

He says a full-fledged refugee program that would allow select people to gain permanent residency would take too long and lack the desired coverage. So Mr Fraser decided to turn to his department’s team who issue temporary visas to visitors, students and foreign workers. “We have the most horsepower in this department,” he says.

According to him, the use of biometric testing allows to exclude those who would take up arms against Ukraine in Donbass or elsewhere, but for the sake of speed, Canada did not consider it appropriate to add other selection criteria. I asked for more information on how the biometric test works, but I didn’t get it.

A Ukrainian who has lived in Paris or Moscow for 20 years is therefore on the same level in the eyes of the program as a Ukrainian who lives next to the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which is constantly under attack by the Russian occupier.

Can Canada do otherwise? Absolutely. You have to look at Europe to believe it. From February 24 to October 8, 4.7 million Ukrainians received temporary protection in a country of the European Union for one year. This status allows them to stay in Europe until March 2023 and benefit from certain services (health, education, housing). But to get it, applicants had to demonstrate that they were a resident of Ukraine before February 24, 2022. occupation. Other cases are considered separately.


Ukrainian refugees buy food after arriving at a train station in Berlin, Germany last March.

Currently, Canada’s Minister of Immigration believes that its visa program is going well. “We don’t believe it goes beyond what we want to give,” he said.

The fact is that 400,000 people have visas in their pockets, which they can use at any time if the situation in Ukraine or neighboring countries deteriorates. When organizations working with immigrants already say they lack resources, are we ready for mass arrivals? “We’re monitoring what’s going on and making sure we can handle it,” says Sean Fraser.

Not refugee status

Citizens of Ukraine applying for a visa under the special program “Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Permit” do not receive refugee status. They receive a temporary residence visa and are entitled to a three-year work visa. This visa is accompanied by financial assistance upon arrival ($9,000 for a two-parent family with two children). In Quebec, holders of these visas are entitled to health care, free primary and secondary education, franchising courses and social assistance. Those wishing to stay in Canada for a longer period of time must apply for permanent residence.

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