OTTAWA—Ukrainians fleeing conflict in their homeland are now able to apply for a special visa to temporarily come to Canada.

The program, called the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel, opened Thursday, two weeks after the Liberals promised to find a way to speed up immigration processes for those eager to seek safe harbor in the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world.

There’s no limit to how many people can apply, and the government promised it will aim to process most applications within two weeks.

“To the Ukrainians who are defending the values ​​we hold dear, we stand with you — not only in our words, but also in our actions,” Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in a statement.

“Canada will offer safe haven to your families while you fight on the front lines of a war to defend your freedom to the benefit of the entire world.”

The government’s program, however, stops short of what’s been a key demand from Ukraine for years — that its nationals shouldn’t need a visa at all to travel to Canada.

Fraser has previously said removing that requirement could take between 12 and 14 weeks, given the changes that would be needed internally and with airlines and that was far too long to wait to aid those seeking safe haven.

Instead, the program in place simplifies the application process, and will allow Ukrainians to stay for up to three years — an increase from the original proposal of two.

Work continues on a family reunification program that would also allow people in Canada to sponsor Ukrainian relatives.

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The United Nations estimated 3 million people have already fled Ukraine in the three weeks since Russia launched its attack on Feb. 24. The number of deaths and injuries is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.


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