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Ukrainians navigating bureaucratic hurdles to stay in Canada after fleeing Russian invasion


The Ukrainians who fled to Canada after the Russian invasion are nearing a deadline to renew their temporary work visa applications by the end of the month but there are many of them who don't meet all the criteria.

Mariia Nasedkyna was a teenager in Kharkiv when Russia invaded her country two years ago, a moment she witnessed from her home, 30 kilometers from the Russian border.

"I was the first to see the bombardments," she said in an interview. "I had to warn the rest of the family."

Nasedkyna and an older sister were eventually encouraged to leave the country so she headed to Canada, where her cousin, Olexandra Nasyedkina, has lived for 20 years.

"She was 16 years old and for the first time, far away from her family and I remember this specific moment where she came out on this alley with this small bag that she brought a couple of clothing, nothing major," said Olexandra.

Canada opened its doors to more than 200,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war who benefit from a special temporary residency program.

In Quebec, it means applicants need to learn French — something Mariia did with flying colours in just a few months.

Olexandra was hoping to sponsor her but it turns out the rules for family reunification only apply to immediate family members, such as brothers, sisters, parents, and grandparents.

Olexandra doesn't fit the bill and because of Mariia's age and unfinished high school diploma, interrupted by the war, Mariia discovered she didn't fit into any criteria to apply for residency or renew a work visa.

In October 2023, when the program came out, that's when we saw that no uncles or cousins or even first-degree cousins were considered in this program," she explained.

One legal expert says Ukrainians who fled the country shouldn't be afraid of being deported.

Right now, there's absolutely no talk of deportation of Ukrainians back to Ukraine because during the time of war, we have a stay of removals to countries where there is active war," said Nataliya Dzera, an immigration lawyer.

She says there are alternatives to family reunions as a way to stay in Canada, such as "programs that are economic based, that are family based programs, and we also have a special exceptional program for permanent residents on humanitarian grounds."

But Ukrainians and their supporters say they'd prefer if Canada simply extended its temporary residency program. Top Stories

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