On March 24th, 2022 the Biden Administration announced a plan to admit as many as 100,000 Ukrainians to the U.S. as refugees and through other means. The Uniting for Ukraine Process lays out legal opportunities for Ukrainians who have fled their homeland to come to the U.S.
The announcement states that Ukrainians should not travel to Mexico to pursue entry into the United States. 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.
What legal immigration options exist for Ukrainian nationals?
Sheltering in Place
The most important thing is that you and your family are safe. It is up to you and your family to carefully consider travel whether inside or outside of Ukraine. Sheltering in place may be an option until more information is available.
Please carefully consider the potential immigration options and outcomes before making decisions about your family’s migration. Some decisions may have permanent immigration consequences.
Parole is a temporary immigration status usually granted for one year. At the end of the parole period the individual may be removed from the U.S. If you arrive at the U.S. border without a valid visa, you may be granted parole. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) considers parole on a case-by-case basis and it is not guaranteed for any particular group, including Ukrainian nationals. If you are denied parole at the border, you will be refused entry to the U.S. and you will have to consider other legal immigration options.
If you are granted parole you are not automatically authorized to work. Applications for work permits are discretionary. This means that USCIS can deny your application. If approved, the work permit is valid for the parole period only. If you are granted parole you do not qualify for State or Federal benefits programs such as SNAP (food stamps) or Medical Assistance (MA). Parole is not a way to get permanent residency (green card). If you want to stay in the U.S. beyond your parole period, you will have to consider other legal immigration options.
Parole should not be confused with special parole programs such as Lautenberg Parole. Some individuals were granted special parole under the Lautenberg Amendment of 1990, which allowed them to enter the U.S. and later apply for permanent residence (green card). This program has been closed since 2011. There are many different parole programs each with different requirements and benefits. Just because one program can lead to a green card does not mean that it is an option for all parolees.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
TPS is a special immigration status granted to eligible nationals of a designated country. On March 3rd, 2022 Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas designated Ukraine for TPS for 18 months.
You may qualify for Ukrainian TPS status if…
+You are a national of Ukraine; and
+You have been continuously present in the U.S. since April 19th, 2022.*
*The initial TPS designation by Secretary Mayorkas stated that applicants had to be continuously present in the U.S. since March 1st, 2022. The Department of Homeland Security has updated this requirement in order to extend TPS to a greater number of eligible applicants. Please review the USCIS webpage for Ukrainian TPS for more information.
If you are granted TPS you may apply for a work permit. If approved, the work permit is valid for the TPS period only. If you are granted TPS you do not qualify for State or Federal benefits programs such as SNAP (food stamps) or Medical Assistance (MA). TPS is not a way to get permanent residency (green card). If you want to stay in the U.S. beyond the designated TPS period, you will have to consider other legal immigration options.
Individuals or families fleeing Ukraine can contact UNHCR to register as refugees. If you enter the U.S. you will be disqualified from refugee status in the future and will need to pursue other legal immigration options.
Asylum is a form of humanitarian protection that you can apply for only from within the U.S. Asylum is not approved based on nationality alone. You have to demonstrate your own personal story of persecution or danger.
Asylum backlogs are at an all-time high. This means that applicants for asylum usually wait several years for their case to be reviewed. If you apply for asylum, you can apply for a work permit while your application is pending. Applications for work permits are discretionary. This means that USCIS can deny your application. If approved, the work permit is valid only while your application is pending. Applicants for asylum do not qualify for State or Federal benefits programs such as SNAP (food stamps) or Medical Assistance (MA).
If your asylum is granted, you can then receive benefits. If your asylum is granted you can apply for permanent residency (green card) after 1 year and may petition for certain family members to join you in the U.S.
If you are a green card holder you may file a family visa petition for your spouse or unmarried children. If you are a U.S. citizen you may filed a family visa petition for your spouse, married or unmarried children, parents, or siblings. If the visa petition is approved, your family member will be granted permanent residency (green card). If you think that you may qualify for a family visa petition, please contact Arrive Ministries to schedule a consult appointment.
Lautenberg “Former Soviet Union” Affidavit of Relationship Program
You may qualify for a special family reunification program if…
+You have a lawful immigration status (refugee, asylum, permanent residency (green card), or U.S. citizenship); and
+You want to file for a parent, grandparent, child, spouse, or sibling; and
+Your relative belongs to a particular religious group (Judaism, Evangelical Christianity, Ukrainian Catholicism, and members of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, for example).
If you think that you might qualify for this program, please contact Arrive Ministries to complete a phone intake. This affidavit must be submitted by a Resettlement Agency. You cannot file this affidavit on your own.