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Roman Burnus | May 3, 2023

Canadian visas deprive Ukrainians in the Czech Republic of temporary protection

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Refugees from Ukraine, who fled to the Czech Republic (“CR”) after 24 February 2022 to escape Russian aggression were being granted temporary protection, which gave them the right to stay, access to the labour market, social and medical assistance and access to housing in the CR. It was originally granted for a period of one year and there was considerable nervousness among the holders before the amendment to the so-called Lex Ukraine, which allowed its extension, came into force. Many temporary protection holders have therefore resorted to the seemingly simple solution of obtaining Canadian visa. However, this step, initially implemented as a backup plan, did not pay off for the holders of temporary protection. According to the legislation, temporary protection status ceases when a foreign visa valid for more than 90 days is granted. The seemingly life-saving step has thus rather become a complication for the refugees.

Temporary protection holders, who have been issued a Canadian visa, lose free access to the Czech labour market with immediate effect and may no longer be employed. If they continued their employment illegally, they could face fines of up to CZK 100,000. It is also a burden for employers, who must urgently address labour shortages. If they continue to employ foreigners, they could face fines of up to CZK 10 million and the status of unreliable employer temporarily restricts the right to employ foreigners.

Given the complications that ill-advised applications for Canadian visas have brought, the Ministry of the Interior has stepped into the situation, announcing that Canadian visas issued until 10 February 2023 will not be considered an obstacle to the extension of temporary protection in the Czech Republic. The exemption would apply only to Canadian visas, which were applied for before the change in legislation in the form of “Lex Ukraine IV”, when refugees resorted to an alternative solution out of uncertainty. Visas granted after the deadline are not exempt and it is necessary to cancel the visa first, and then apply for new temporary protection.

Author: Roman Burnus, Anna Beránková