OTTAWA — Government statistics show fewer than one-third of Ukrainians approved for temporary Canadian visas have arrived in the country, even as hundreds of thousands of others remain in the queue waiting to find out if they qualify to travel to Canada.
The temporary visas are part of the special immigration measures introduced by the federal government in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine giving Ukrainians emergency authorization to travel and stay in Canada.
According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the government received nearly 700,000 requests from Ukrainians to travel to Canada under the special program between March and November.
Yet the department says only around 420,000 applications have been approved so far, while statistics from the Canada Border Services Agency show about 117,000 have actually reached Canada. The majority of those arrived by air.
It wasn't immediately clear why so few Ukrainians authorized to travel to Canada have done so.
Meanwhile, a document tabled in the House of Commons last week shows that the average processing time for the majority of visas between March and September was 72 days — or more than 10 weeks.
Tabled in response to a written question from Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, the document also says that as of September, about 14 per cent of the applications were for children under 18 while around five per cent were for people aged 61 and older.
The response also says 1,757 applications were rejected and 1,415 applications were withdrawn as of Sept. 20.
It goes on to caution that total application numbers held by the immigration department could be "inflated" because some people have multiple applications associated with their files.
Genuis had asked for data about whether anyone accepted under the program lived outside of Ukraine before Russia's invasion.
But the department said it was not able to determine a person's country of residence prior to their application, and that applicants are only required to declare their current country of residence.
In testimony to a Senate committee last week, Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada Larisa Galadza said that to her knowledge, Canada is receiving 14,000 applications a week from Ukrainians, and about seven million civilians have fled Ukraine in total.
She noted that the fact Canada is providing a three-year visa to applicants lessens the pressure to travel immediately.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2022.
The Canadian Press