CANADA The Canadian visa of the Ukrainian couple had to...

The Canadian visa of the Ukrainian couple had to be issued for 2 weeks. It’s been 3 months, they’re still waiting

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Oksana Grigoryeva (center) poses with her parents, Leonid Kubatin (left) and Irina Kubatina in Kharkov in 2019. Grigorieva, who lives in Toronto, helped her parents apply for the Canadian government’s temporary residence program for Ukrainians fleeing the war. Three months later, they are still waiting for a response. (Courtesy of Oksana Grigorieva)

When Russia first invaded Ukraine, Oksana Grigorieva’s parents, Irina Kubatina and Leonid Kubatin, wanted to stay in Ukraine rather than flee their home in Kharkiv, a city in the northeast close to the Russian border.

But Grigorieva convinced them to leave, promising that they would be safe in Canada and with their family; they could temporarily stay with her in Toronto and could spend time with their granddaughter.

But three months after Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) received an application for a visitor visa under the accelerated program for Ukrainians fleeing the war, Grigorieva’s parents are still awaiting acceptance by Canadian authorities and remain displaced – currently while they live with volunteers in Warsaw, Poland.

The government says it is trying to process applications within 14 days, but many are taking longer and more than 164,000 Ukrainians are still waiting.

“I just love my parents and want to help them, but I feel like I can’t help them,” said Grigorieva, who moved from Ukraine to Toronto three years ago and is a permanent resident.

She helped her parents apply for visas under IRCC’s Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization Program (CUAET).

A young woman sits at a picnic table in a Toronto park.

Grigoryeva says she doesn’t know who else to turn to for help as her parents have been waiting for more than three months for their application to be processed and accepted under the Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Permit Program. (Angelina King/CBC)

The Government of Canada has established a temporary residence program to help Ukrainians and their families come to Canada “as soon as possible” and to provide them with the opportunity to work and study in Canada for up to three years, according to its website.

The latest IRCC data shows that as of June 8, 296,136 CUAET applications have been received and 131,763 applications have been approved.

IRCC says it tries to process most CUAET applications within two weeks, but Toronto-based Ukrainian immigration lawyer Ksenia Chern says it takes four to six weeks on average. She says the three-month-old case of Grigorieva’s parents is unusual.

“Any extra day for them is already exacerbating their trauma and fear of what might happen,” Chern said.

IRCC spokesperson Remy Larivière says the CUAET program is the fastest and most efficient way for Ukrainians and their families to come to Canada.

“We understand that many Ukrainians are anxious to get their visas and come to Canada, and we are working around the clock to help Ukrainians and their families get to Canada as quickly and safely as possible,” Larivière said in an email.

Larivière said the IRCC cannot comment on specific cases without written consent due to privacy laws.

While Grigorieva is desperate to figure out why the application has stalled, she says her parents are losing hope of coming to Canada and are considering returning home to Kharkov, the city where Russia committed war crimes. according to Amnesty International.

“They are destroying infrastructure: houses, schools and hospitals,” Grigorieva said. “I’m like, ‘How can you go home? It’s not just unsafe, we’re not even sure your house is there.” “

A man walks through a burned-out market in Kharkiv, Ukraine, littered with rubble and mangled metal.

A man walks through Kharkiv’s Barabashovo, one of Europe’s largest clothing markets, on May 21 after it was destroyed by shelling during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Grigorieva’s parents currently live in Poland and are considering returning home to Kharkiv, but she worries that their home no longer exists. (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images)

Escape from Kharkov

In early March, Grigorieva’s parents left their home and drove through Ukraine from Kharkov to Lvov – the journey took them five days. They took a train from Lvov to Warsaw, Poland, where Grigoryeva helped them find volunteers to temporarily take in refugees.

After a week in Warsaw, they were able to find a family friend who lives in Istanbul, Turkey and was able to host them.

But for Ukrainian refugees, there is a 90-day stay in Turkey before they need to apply for a tourist permit, which is why her parents recently flew back to Warsaw. The couple is currently being hosted separately by two different volunteer families.

“I have no idea what else I can do,” Grigorieva said.

IRCC says some complex CUAET cases can take more than two weeks; for example, if the application does not contain documents or family members have different nationalities.

But Grigorieva says the IRCC didn’t ask for any additional documents, and her parents’ case is as standard as it gets.

“They are ordinary people,” she said.

Grigorieva’s parents’ online application portal shows that their applications were received on March 18, the day after the program was launched.

At the end of April, her mother’s work permit and biometrics—fingerprints and a photograph of the applicant—were approved, but not her visa. Her father’s application has not moved forward and she does not appear to be able to get answers as to why there was a delay.

WATCH | How Canadian rules create obstacles for Ukrainian refugees:

Human rights activists say Canadian rules create bottlenecks for Ukrainian asylum seekers

2 months ago

Duration 1:56

Supporters say federal refugee status requirements, including biometrics, create bottlenecks for Ukrainians trying to flee to Canada.

“They just said they were being processed and that was it,” she said.

Grigorieva says that after her parents’ application was received, she helped other relatives and friends in Ukraine with their applications, and these people were already accepted.

“I feel like something went wrong and no one sees it.”

IRCC says more staff deployed to speed up processing times

When the CUAET program first launched in March, Chern said there was a large flow of applications, and some of them were processed over a two-week period.

Applications then slowed because, she said, some in Ukraine hoped the situation would improve, but as the war continued, applications increased again.

“When you’re dealing with a lot of people, [two weeks] may not be the most realistic,” she said. “I believe that as more people started applying, the deadlines have definitely increased.”

Czernn says visa application centers in some regions are delayed more than others due to offices running at full capacity. Many of them were working with limited staff and resources due to the pandemic.

Smiling woman is sitting at the table in the office.

Toronto-based immigration attorney Xenia Chern says the federal program takes an average of four to six weeks to process applications. (Courtesy of Ksenia Chern)

IRCC says it is monitoring the operational capacity of IRCC offices and visa application centers and has sent additional staff, materials and equipment.

The Canadian government also says it is setting up additional biometric collection points in Europe to speed up the process. IRCC reports that visa application processing centers have doubled in recent weeks, with staff holding more than 18,000 appointments weekly.

Chernn says it would be helpful if IRCC and visa application centers were more transparent about the length of waiting times to reduce anxiety for those applying.

“Just to warn applicants not to worry themselves that something is wrong with their application or that they are not needed by Canada.”

WATCH | Growing frustration with delays in the refugee process in Ukraine:

Frustration grows over delays in relocating Ukrainian refugees to Canada

2 months ago

Duration 2:05

Families hoping to resettle relatives fleeing the war in Ukraine are increasingly frustrated by delays in the Canadian immigration application process.

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