Time Running out for Ukrainian CUAET Applicants

by Ronalee Carey Law

March 2024

A year ago, the Canadian government created the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET), which allows Ukrainian citizens and their family members to apply for visas to come to Canada and, upon arrival, be issued work or study permits. In July 2023, the Temporary public policy for foreign nationals who applied under the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel measures and for new temporary resident applicants created an end date for the program, which will be at the end of this month. Those with visas must travel to Canada by March 31, and anyone wishing to extend their study or work permit must submit their application by that date. Thousands of Ukrainians were expected to arrive before the deadline to join the approximate 250,000 already here.

This does not mean that Ukrainians whose work or study permits expire will be forced to return to Ukraine. There is an administrative deferral of removal (ADR) for Ukraine, preventing the removal of most Ukrainian citizens from Canada. However, ADRs are temporary measures which can be lifted at any time.

Many of the Ukrainians who came to Canada through the CUAET program have indicated their desire to stay permanently. However, their options are limited.

  • Applying through economic programs such as the Canadian Experience Class or provincial nomination programs – Ukrainians wishing to apply for permanent residence in Canada face an uphill battle due to intense competition for limited spots. Limited English language skills and the inability to obtain skilled work in Canada can impact their changes.
  • Special family sponsorship program – sponsorship is usually limited to spouses, dependent children, and (some) parents or grandparents; however, Canadians can sponsor their Ukrainian adult children, grandchildren, and siblings through a special program
  • Application based on humanitarian and compassionate considerations – I recently was a guest with the Canadian Immigration Institute where we discussed these types of applications. Ukrainians will have many of the ‘factors’ present that immigration officers look for when reviewing these applications, but there are only 8,000 spaces in the 2025 immigration levels plan for H&C applicants. This program will be woefully insufficient to meet demand.
  • Make a refugee claim – refugee claimants are, by way, required to show ‘subjective risk’; a general risk to the entire population does not usually lead to refugee protection. However, in X (Re), 2022 CanLII 136990 (CA IRB) the Refugee Appeal Division found that the claimant, a Ukrainian citizen, would be at risk if he returned to Ukraine on the basis of his Ukrainian nationality. Nationality is a protection ground of persecution in international refugee law. The tribunal held:

…I find that the Respondent has established a nexus based on his Ukrainian nationality. I agree with the Minister Appellant’s position that Ukrainians are being targeted based on their Ukrainian nationality and that “there is evidence that the atrocities committed by the Russian military against Ukrainians are motivated by genocidal intent.”

Many Ukrainians will not find a refugee claim an option, however, as it means that cannot return to Ukraine, even to visit, once the war is over. If they did so, they would risk losing their status in Canada.

The CUAET program was the first of its kind and was likely instituted partly due to pressure from the large Canadian-Ukrainian population. Time will tell whether similar pressure will force the Canadian government to open a pathway to permanent residence for all CUAET permit holders in Canada.