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Uniting for Ukraine: A New Process to Welcome Ukrainians Fleeing Russia’s Invasion

Since February, we have been watching Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with great concern for the Ukrainian people. According to a recent BBC article, an estimated 11+ million people have left their homes, with 5.1 million fleeing Ukraine for neighboring countries. With so many people displaced and in need of aid, the U.S. has joined many other nations in supporting Ukrainian refugees, welcoming them to our country. As such, President Biden has announced Uniting for Ukraine, a new, streamlined entry process for displaced Ukrainians.

President Biden Commits to Welcoming 100,000 Ukrainians

Uniting for Ukraine introduces a new streamlined process for providing Ukrainian citizens with opportunities to come to the United States, fulfilling President Biden’s commitment to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others who have been affected by the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The State Department is also increasing refugee resettlement processing and broadening access to visa processing at overseas consular posts.

The U.S. Department of State will fulfill President Biden’s commitment in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security. According to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayoraks, the Department of Homeland Security “will continue to provide relief to the Ukrainian people, while supporting our European allies who have shouldered so much as the result of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.”

A Streamlined Process for Ukrainian Citizens

Ukrainian citizens displaced by the Russian invasion and who do not have or are not eligible for a visa, to apply for humanitarian parole through Uniting for Ukraine. This process authorizes approved Ukrainians to travel to the U.S. and be considered for parole for up to two years (on a case-by-case basis). According to the DHS, once paroled through this process, the paroled individual will be eligible for work authorization.

To be eligible for the new process, Ukrainians must:

  • Have been a resident in Ukraine as of February 11, 2022
  • Have a sponsor in the U.S.
  • Have complete vaccinations
  • Meet other public health requirements
  • Pass rigorous biometric and biographic screening
  • Pass security checks

Ukrainians seeking refuge in the U.S. but not eligible for a visa are heavily encouraged to apply for entry through Uniting for Ukraine from Europe. According to the DHS, this is the safest and most efficient way to pursue temporary refuge in the U.S. Additionally, the U.S. is working with European partners to help Ukrainians meet their vaccination requirements.

Do Not Present at Land Ports of Entry Without a Valid Visa or Pre-Authorization

Ukrainians are directed not to travel to Mexico to pursue entry. Moreover, according to the DHS release, “following the launch of Uniting for Ukraine, Ukrainians who present at land U.S. ports of entry without a valid visa or without pre-authorization to travel to the United States through Uniting for Ukraine will be denied entry and referred to apply through this program.”

Who Can Sponsor Ukrainians?

Any U.S. citizen or individual can sponsor Ukrainian applicants. This includes representatives of non-government organizations (NGOs). Those who want to sponsor a Ukrainian applicant must declare their financial support and pass security background checks. These checks are designed to protect Ukrainians from exploitation and abuse.

The U.S. Expands Access to Other Existing Legal Pathways for Ukrainian Citizens

In addition to the Uniting for Ukraine process, the U.S. is taking further steps to help displaced Ukrainians gain legal entry into the U.S. First and foremost, the Department of State will be expanding U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) operations in Europe. This will provide eligible Ukrainians with improved access to refugee resettlement processing via the Lautenberg Program. It will also broaden referral mechanisms for those fleeing the Russia-Ukraine crisis who need permanent resettlement.

European Embassies and consulates are also increasing their nonimmigrant visa appointments and establishing expedited visa appointment programs for those with humanitarian, medical, or other extraordinary circumstances.

As part of these initiatives, the U.S. will work with European partners, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and NGOs to identify Ukrainian citizens (and others fleeing the conflict) who may be particularly vulnerable, such as women, children, people with special needs, members of ethnic and religious minority groups, LGBTQI+ persons, people with disabilities, and more.

To learn more about how the U.S. is working to support displaced Ukrainians through streamlining the process for entry to the U.S., review the Department of Homeland Security’s news release on Uniting for Ukraine.

What Is Humanitarian Parole?

Humanitarian parole is a type of discretionary relief that allows people who do not have or are not eligible for a visitor visa to apply to enter the U.S. Admittance to the U.S. through humanitarian parole is based on either urgent humanitarian needs (such as the current crisis in Ukraine) or in situations where there would be a significant public benefit to admitting the individual. Unlike asylum seekers, humanitarian parole is applied for before the individual has arrived in the U.S. Humanitarian parole is most often used for individuals seeking medical treatment in the U.S. or who have another compelling emergency and need to travel to the U.S.

Humanitarian parole status is not the same as asylum or refugee status. Nor is it the same as acquiring Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Generally speaking, humanitarian parole is one of the less common entry methods into the U.S. However, in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the humanitarian parole process facilitates the U.S.’s ability to help displaced Ukrainians through the Uniting for Ukraine initiative.

Do You Need Immigration Help?

At Mathur Law Offices, P.C., we have practiced immigration law for over 25 years. With over 100 years of combined experience, our attorneys are well-versed in all aspects of immigration law, including the laws and processes affecting refugees, asylum seekers, and people who have been displaced due to conflicts like the current Russian invasion of Ukraine.

If you are looking for help with the new Unity for Ukraine processes or plan to sponsor a Ukrainian refugee, reach out to Mathur Law Offices, P.C. for guidance. Our founding partner, Sanjay Mathur, is an immigrant himself, and knows this isn’t an easy process. We are committed to helping clients through the complexities of immigration.