The Urgent Need to Extend the March 31, 2024 CUAET Program Deadline


This article was authored by Lev Abramovich, Partner, Abramovich & Tchern.

The Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program was launched on March 22, 2022, as a response to Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion of Ukraine.

The program allows Ukrainian nationals and their immediate family members, the opportunity to obtain a three-year visa in conjunction with a work or study permit.

CUAET applications have a 14-day processing standard, reflective of the fact that this emergency program was designed to “help Ukrainians and their family members come to Canada as quickly as possible.”

The last day to submit a CUAET application was July 15, 2023. Crucially, the last day to obtain a CUAET-based work or study permit at the port of entry (or to apply for one from within Canada) is March 31, 2024.

According to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), those with a visa under CUAET who arrive on or after April 1, 2024, “will need to meet the general requirements to enter Canada and won’t be eligible to receive supports offered under the CUAET measures.” This includes having to meet the general requirements for a work and/or study permit issuance. In addition, their stay will be limited to the standard six-month period.

While IRCC’s efforts to help Ukrainians and their family members are commendable, the uncapped nature, lack of transparency, and problematic approach to mixed-nationality applications have resulted in backlogs and considerable stress for certain applicants.

The war in Ukraine rages on and will soon enter its third year, with Russia looking to regain the initiative as it continues to bomb Ukrainian cities and military targets with impunity.

This article will address some of the key issues behind the backlog and advocate for the extension of the entry deadline to August 1, 2024.

The Missing Cap

Despite its commendable objective, the uncapped nature of the program has created serious problems.

An extraordinary volume of submitted applications were received – 1,189,320 to be exact. This volume necessitated a considerable use of resources on the part of IRCC to process. While IRCC rose to the challenge and processed nearly a million applications to date, only 250,000 applicants have entered Canada thus far, signifying a considerable waste of resources.

In addition, despite the looming deadline, more than 250,000 applications are still pending, many of them for more than a year, with many applicants finding themselves in a state of limbo.

In retrospect, IRCC should have capped the program to either 500,000 applications or the first 300,000 entries into Canada, giving priority to those seeking entry to Canada, as opposed to securing a visa as a backup option.

The Problematic Approach to Mixed-Nationality Families

Another significant issue stems from IRCC’s approach to mixed nationality applications. Unlike other temporary residence applications which are processed concurrently (with a dependent’s visa being considered immediately upon the approval of the principal’s application), IRCC has decided to process Ukrainian applicants separately from their non-Ukrainian dependents.

Compounding the above issue is the fact that IRCC did not provide specific proof-of-relationship instructions at the launch of the CUAET program.

Despite following the program’s application instructions, thousands of applications submitted by non-Ukrainian spouses and dependents were shelved for more than a year, until late April and early May 2023, when IRCC sent out thousands of templated “Additional Document Requests” to non-Ukrainian family members, irrespective of the evidence they provided up to that point.

IRCC’s approach to mixed-nationality families has created significant hardship for over 50,000 mixed-nationality families and has attracted media coverage. A CBC article entitled “Non-Ukrainian family members in limbo awaiting expedited visas” addresses the impact of IRCC’s problematic approach.

When it comes to mixed-nationality families, some Ukrainian spouses have arrived in Canada, believing that their partner’s applications would be approved shortly, only to find themselves in limbo with no idea of when their spouse will join them. Others have chosen to wait for all family members to receive a decision before moving to Canada and, as such, are wasting the validity of their CUAET visas.

As the March 31st deadline approaches, families will have to decide whether to abandon their CUAET applications (and in some cases leave Canada) or continue waiting for their CUAET visas, subsequently attempting to enter Canada without the right to work or study.

Needless to say, the uncertainty is very stressful, particularly for those residing outside of their countries of nationality on temporary status.

It is important to note that even if a decision is issued by March 31, 2024, families will need time to arrange their affairs and to purchase airfare with a view to landing in Canada, on or before March 31, 2024.


Given that many families have organized their lives based on Canada’s promise to help and have been waiting for more than a year for a program that attracted a 14-day processing time, it would be unconscionable to cause displaced individuals further harm by sticking with the March 31, 2024 deadline.

In light of the fact that 250,000 are still pending, we believe that the deadline should be extended to August 1, 2024, to allow IRCC sufficient time to process the remaining backlog.

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