I am from Ukraine and willing to come and stay in the USA due to the Russian invasion in Ukraine? Which options do I have?
The plight of Ukrainian refugees has garnered significant attention, with many seeking to find a new home in the United States. The following options are available for these individuals to enter the country:
- Utilizing a Current Visa: Ukrainian nationals with a valid US visa can use it to gain entry into the country. Customs and Border Protection is less likely to scrutinize the immigrant’s intent or purpose of visit. The Department of State has waived the Covid vaccination requirement for Ukrainians, but the main challenge remains reaching the US.
- Applying for a Visa at a US Consulate: Refugees can apply for a visitor visa at a US consulate in their current location, such as Warsaw, Poland, or other European Union countries. However, processing is backlogged due to the pandemic and the current crisis. Despite the backlog, immediate family members of US citizens or green-card holders can apply for expedited visitor visa processing.
As of April 11, 2023, processing times for visa applications for individuals with family in the US are approximately 2-3 weeks.
- Requesting Parole at a US Border Checkpoint: Ukrainian refugees can also seek entry into the US by fleeing to Canada or Mexico and requesting parole as refugees. However, this option presents logistical challenges in reaching these countries. Mexico offers electronic visa processing for Ukrainians, while Canada provides expedited priority visa processing, taking less than ten days. Additionally, Canada offers job opportunities and socio-economic assistance to Ukrainian refugees, making it a more attractive option for many.
Requesting parole at the US border may involve detention time before being allowed entry. Refugees should prepare a comprehensive support package, including documentation of their identities and proof of support from family, friends, or other sponsors in the US. The more detailed this package, the faster the processing time and the lower the chances of lengthy detentions.
- Pursuing Humanitarian Parole: Another option is submitting a Humanitarian Parole application (USCIS Form I-131) within the US, along with evidence of financial support. Initially designed for urgent humanitarian needs and intended to be a quick process, Humanitarian Parole has experienced significant delays due to the pandemic and the situation in Afghanistan. It now takes much longer than the original 2-3 weeks, with the Department of Homeland Security lacking the resources to process applications quickly.
- The “Uniting for Ukraine” Program: The US government announced plans to admit 100,000 Ukrainian refugees under the “Uniting for Ukraine” program. Launched on April 21, 2022, the application portal opened on April 25, 2022. Applicants need a US sponsor and will undergo background checks and a vetting process. While the government claims the process will be streamlined, it also emphasizes rigorous vetting and application review, so the speed of the process remains to be seen.
- Expediting Current Petitions and Applications: Due to the ongoing crisis, all current and pending immediate family petitions and consular processing cases can be expedited. This applies to US citizens or permanent residents sponsoring their spouses, children, or, in the case of US citizens, their parents. The processing of these petitions and applications can be accelerated in light of the current situation.
For Ukrainians already in the US or newly arrived, immigration options include:
Temporary Protected Status (TPS): Ukraine has TPS designation for 18 months, with applications accepted starting 4/19/2022. The DHS extended the entry date to 4/11/2022, allowing all Ukrainian citizens in the US as of that date to apply. TPS holders can remain and work in the US, travel in and out, and have their status extended as long as the designation is renewed.
To apply for TPS, complete Form I-821. File Form I-765 for a work permit and Form I-131 for Advance Parole if you wish to travel outside the US. Filing fees are $50 for TPS, $410 for a work permit, and $660 for travel authorization. If you can demonstrate financial hardship, use Form I-912 to request a fee waiver. Applications can also be expedited for urgent humanitarian reasons, severe financial loss, or US national interest. Visit the USCIS page for expedited request requirements and criteria.
- Protection from Deportation: Individuals in the US facing deportation (i.e., in removal proceedings in immigration courts) can seek Prosecutorial Discretion. This option is open to nationals of any country without significant criminal convictions in the US and who can demonstrate favorable factors. It allows beneficiaries to stay in the US and obtain a work permit. Ukrainians can also apply for TPS to avoid deportation.
- Asylum: The current asylum process enables those with a reasonable fear of returning to their home countries to apply for asylum in the US. Although anyone with fear can apply, it doesn’t guarantee asylum. Applicants must show a reasonable possibility of persecution based on specific protected grounds.
To sum up, Ukrainian refugees and those already in the US have various options to enter or secure their status, such as utilizing existing visas, applying for new ones, requesting parole, seeking Humanitarian Parole, participating in the “Uniting for Ukraine” program, expediting current petitions, or applying for TPS, protection from deportation, or asylum. Navigating these intricate immigration pathways can be daunting, making it essential to consult with a knowledgeable immigration lawyer to identify the most appropriate option and enhance the likelihood of a positive outcome. The experienced immigration attorneys at Arvian Law Firm are available to assist you.