Canada prepared to welcome an 'unlimited number' of Ukrainians fleeing war, minister says

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says Canada is waiving most typical visa requirements

John Paul Tasker - CBC News
Posted: 8 Hours Ago
Last Updated: 4 Minutes Ago
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced Thursday the federal government has created two new pathways for Ukrainians fleeing their war-torn country to come to Canada — part of a plan to accept an "unlimited number" of people who want to leave.

To start, Fraser said his department has created a new visa category that will allow a limitless number of Ukrainians to come to Canada to live, work or study here for up to two years.

People accepted under the Canada Ukraine Authorization For Emergency Travel program will have an open work or study permit and employers will be free to hire as many Ukrainians as they want. Fraser said the federal government is waiving most of the typical visa requirements but applicants will still need to supply biometrics and undergo a background screening process before leaving for Canada. The application process will open in two weeks' time. Fraser said the department is prepared for a possible influx of Ukrainians and there are biometric kits and personnel ready to assist would-be applicants at diplomatic posts in Warsaw, Vienna and Bucharest and at 30 other locations throughout Europe. Canada is also waiving application fees for all Ukrainians who want to avail themselves of this program.

NDP wants Canada to drop visa requirement

Fraser also announced the government is introducing an "expedited path" to permanent residency for Ukrainians with family in Canada. The minister said a "wider circle of family members" will be able to sponsor Ukrainians who want to come to Canada on a more permanent basis.

Some critics, including NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, have called on the government to drop the visa requirement altogether to allow all Ukrainians to travel to Canada unencumbered. Asked about the possibility of visa-free travel for Ukrainians, Fraser said that sort of change would require 12 to 14 weeks of work to implement because the department's IT systems would need "certain renovations" and airlines would have to change their normal processes. He said the situation is urgent and there's no time for a three-month delay.

Fraser also said it's prudent to conduct background checks on all applicants to weed out any Russian collaborators. He said a blanket visa waiver would mean some people could "slip through the cracks," including people aligned with Russia who have attacked Ukrainian forces in the breakaway regions of the Donbas.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress said the new pathways will help some of the nearly one million people who've already fled the country.

"Canada, together with all civilized nations, is mobilizing in support of efforts to help these innocent people. Our community is grateful," the group's president, Alexandra Chyczij, said in a media statement.

"Russia is trying to destroy Ukrainian cities and towns from the air. These are crimes against humanity that are causing a humanitarian catastrophe not seen in Europe since World War II."