In February 2022, after the start of the Russo-Ukrainian war, Ottawa introduced the Canada-Ukraine Temporary Authorization for an Emergency Travel Program (CUAET) which has allowed Ukrainian refugees to apply to come to Canada and stay up to 3 years. The program that has issued nearly 1-million visas since 2022 is coming to an end, and the deadline to access it is coming up quickly.

Gwen Reimer from Eastman Immigrant Services says their offices have been helping newcomers from Ukraine for the last number of years.

The federal government’s Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Department says they have issued more than 936,293 temporary emergency visas since March 2022 to Ukrainians who want to work or study in Canada while they wait out the war.

Reimer explains what kind of special allowances were made for refugees from Ukraine through CUAET.

“So, Ukrainians and their family members that come to Canada, can apply for a free visitor visa and may be allowed to stay in Canada for three years, as opposed to the standard six- month authorized stay for regular visitors. They have the option to apply free of charge for an open-work permit with their visa application, enabling them to find work as quickly as possible. They have their electronic visa application processed within 14-days of receipt of a complete application for standard or non-complex cases are exempt from completing an immigration medical exam overseas or were exempt from completing that medical exam if applicable but may be required to complete and pay for a medical diagnostic test within 90-days of arrival in Canada to screen for reportable communicable diseases.”

Reimer notes having these privileges through CUAET has meant a lot to those coming from war-torn Ukraine.

“You know, some of the stories that we hear from some of them that come are traumatic, and so to be able to give them a little bit of relief was comforting for them, and it was gratifying for us to see that they were able to settle here, although some of them not by their choice, but because they had to.”

The federal government set a deadline for those applying to enter Canada under CUAET for March 31, 2024. Reimer notes that this coming Sunday is the last day to enter Canada under the CUAET Special Measures.

“Those with a visa under CUAET have until March 31, 2024 to travel to Canada under the special measures to be eligible for various supports offered under the CUAET program. However, individuals arriving in Canada on or after April 1, 2024, will need to meet the general immigration requirements before they can enter the country. Also, they won't be eligible to receive the supports offered under the CUAET measures. Of course they can still come, but they just won't have those special privileges that were granted earlier.”

With the March 31 deadline approaching quickly, Reimer says their Eastman Immigrant Services Settlement Facilitators will continue to be available wherever help is needed.

"We've got settlement facilitators who are available to assist with some of the needs that these people might have, whether it's reviewing an application, whether it's giving guidance or helping them get the right information into their application, or just being that listening ear to what they need. We are prepared and we are able to assist in whatever ways that they need.”

Reimer clarifies that any one from Ukraine that will be entering Canada on or before March 31 will qualify to receive financial assistance under the benefit of CUAET.

"Individuals can apply for an open work permit, for a study permit, or an extent to stay for up to three years. And then, those people that arrive on or before March 31, 2024, and those family members who are already in Canada temporarily, can benefit from settlement services up till March 31, 2025. So, they have another year for us to be able to assist them with their settlement needs.”

The Canadian Government says they have knowledge of as many as 90,000 more emergency visa holders from Ukraine hoping to make the March 31 deadline.

If those refugees would be coming to southeastern Manitoba and Steinbach, Reimer says, “We've got our Settlement Facilitators in place.”

Also, the federal government will continue to offer temporary emergency accommodation to CUAET holders who do not have an accommodation solution in Canada for up to 14-days.

Reimer notes, “So, if they're coming and they need a place to stay, they can stay in designated hotels, which we also have access to in Steinbach.”

She assures us that E.I.S. is prepared to help in whatever way they can.

Reimer says Eastman Immigrant Services will be open on Thursday, March 28 9am to 5pm, but closed on Good Friday, and open again at their normal hours on Monday, April 1.

For more information, please contact Eastman Immigrant Services by calling their office at 204-326-6609 and you will be directed to their Settlement Facilitators.