ArticlesTemporary Protected Immigration Status – Comparing the United States and Canada Visa Programs for Ukrainians

We’ve looked at Canada.  What is the U.S. doing to help Ukrainians? There is a new Temporary Protected Status program (“TPS”) for Ukrainians who are currently in America. Additionally, The Biden administration has said it will admit up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees forced to flee their homes because of the war. The program is being dubbed “Uniting for Ukraine.” Biden has said that Ukrainians seeking refuge in America can simply be “paroled” on an emergency basis without the need for standard processing. The program allows for Ukrainians coming to America to be able to stay here for up to two years. Ukrainians cannot directly apply themselves. Instead, sponsors who legally live in the United States must fill out an I-134 form; this can be done by an individual or an entity, like a school or nonprofit. The sponsor has to agree to financially support the refugee and ensure they have appropriate housing, and will be vetted to prevent the exploitation of migrants. If the sponsor is approved, the Ukrainian will receive an email from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and must then complete several requirements, including biographic and biometric screening. The program is open to Ukrainian citizens, as well as their children, spouses, and common-law partners, who left Ukraine after Feb. 11. They have 90 days to enter the U.S. and have to arrange their own travel. Before arriving, they must also receive some vaccinations and complete other public health requirements. Once in the U.S., Ukrainian refugees are eligible to apply for employment authorization and encouraged to sign up for a Social Security number. They may also qualify for some government programs, including emergency Medicaid and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) services and benefits. Their parole will be valid for a period of up to two years, and will be automatically terminated if they leave the United States without receiving prior authorization. Part of Uniting for Ukraine’s goal is to deter Ukrainians from attempting to enter the U.S. at land ports of entry; now that the program is up and running, refugees who do arrive at the border without valid visas or pre-authorization to cross may be denied entry, the Department of Homeland Security said. After Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, many Ukrainians hoping to ultimately settle in the United States first traveled to Mexico, where it’s easier to get a visa, and then sought entry to the U.S. at the southern border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said that in March, it processed 3,274 Ukrainians there — an increase of more than 1,100 percent from February and March.

Our opinion: TPS status is not the best solution.  The designation allows Ukrainians to continue living in the USA at least for the next 18 months, given how unsafe it is for them to return to Ukraine at this time. The TPS designation is based on both ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions in Ukraine, which prevent Ukrainian nationals, and those of no nationality who last habitually resided in Ukraine, from returning to Ukraine safely. Individuals eligible for TPS must have continuously resided in the United States since March 1, 2022. Individuals who attempt to travel to the USA after March 1, 2022, are not be eligible for TPS.  We believe that TPS is just a “band-aid” as it is very temporary.  What will those Ukrainians in the USA do once TPS is over?   This leaves Ukrainians wondering what will happen to them once the war ends, and when.  They may not feel that they can plant roots in American, start a business, invest, or buy property, etc.

In stark contrast, the CUAET visa in Canada, while only temporary at first, can lead to a permanent option for Ukraine nationals and their family members in Canada.  The CUAET grants a Ukrainian the ability to work for any Canadian employer (“open work permit”), study (“Study permit”) or simply remain in Canada for three years (twice the length of the TPS protection in the USA).  The CUAET visa can also be used by Ukrainians who are in the United States presently, as long as they have a Ukrainian passport.  The Canadian Government and its Minister of Immigration are also looking at advancing procedures to create a reunification program for immediate and extended family members of Canadian citizens, and permanent residents, leading to permanent residence.  All Ukrainians who come to Canada under the CUAET are eligible to apply for open work permits, making it easier for employers to quickly hire and filling a labour shortage in many areas of work, including the skilled trades.

Canadian Law Group LLC is one of the law firms that leads the charge by offering Pro Bono services to apply for the CUAET for Ukrainians presently or displaced in surrounding countries.  We are also actively helping Ukrainians residing in the USA, who have opted to move to Canada to join their arriving relatives.  Many Ukrainians in the USA, not seeing a long term solution to their immigration visas, are opting to move to Canada now, where they will find the world’s third largest Ukrainian community, social services, subsidized health care, and free schooling.

Perhaps Canada, with its very large territory and labour shortage, can set the bar high to welcome Ukrainians to its land, while the USA can lead the way in economic assistance to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion?  If this was the deal made by Biden and Trudeau (one can speculate it was discussed), it makes a lot of sense.  The USA has a difficult immigration problem already on its southern border, issues with Title 42, and political debacle over the entry of migrants from the south.  Fair to say that the USA has its “hands full” where it comes to immigration.  In contrast, Canada has plenty of space, and plenty of job, plus the third largest Ukrainian population in the world, but little to offer in terms of financial aid and arms to Ukraine as compared to its southern neighbour.  It makes practical sense to let Canada absorb the Ukrainian refugees, while the USA can monetize and arm Ukraine.

Please contact if you or someone you know needs assistance to come to Canada.