Beginning April 25, Ukrainian citizens can be sponsored for humanitarian parole online under a new streamlined process. To qualify, applicants must have been resident in Ukraine as of February 11, 2022, have a U.S. sponsor, meet certain vaccination and other public health requirements, and undergo security checks. Approved applicants are eligible for parole into the United States and work authorization for up to two years.
Following the White House’s recent commitment to accept 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing the Russian invasion, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced the Uniting for Ukraine program, a streamlined process for Ukrainian citizens who have been displaced by Russian aggression to apply for humanitarian parole in the United States.
Beginning on April 25, 2022, U.S.-based individuals and entities can apply to DHS to sponsor Ukrainian citizens who have been displaced by Russian aggression through the Uniting for Ukraine process. The program will go live on the DHS website on April 25.
To be eligible under the new process, Ukrainians must:
- have been residents in Ukraine as of February 11, 2022;
- have a sponsor in the United States;
- complete vaccinations and other public health requirements; and
- pass rigorous biometric and biographic screening and vetting security checks.
Ukrainians approved via this process will be authorized to travel to the United States and be considered for parole, on a case-by-case basis, for a period of up to two years. Once paroled through this process, Ukrainians will be eligible for work authorization.
In its announcement, the United States strongly encourages Ukrainians seeking refuge in the United States who do not have and are not eligible for a visa to seek entry via Uniting for Ukraine from Europe. DHS reports that the U.S. government is working with European partners to ensure Ukrainians can meet the vaccination requirements of the new process.
Further, the U.S. government 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.
Who can sponsor?
Any U.S. citizen or individual, including representatives of non-government organizations, can sponsor Ukrainian applicants under the Uniting for Ukraine process. Individuals and organizations seeking to sponsor Ukrainian citizens in the United States will be required to declare their financial support and pass security background checks to protect against exploitation and abuse.
Unknowns about the new program
Humanitarian parole is a longstanding U.S. immigration program that offers temporary entry on a discretionary basis to foreign nationals facing urgent humanitarian circumstances. There are no specific eligibility criteria; rather, humanitarian parole applications are considered case by case. Typically, the factors considered by adjudicators depend on the type of parole request.
Several details remain unknown regarding the Uniting for Ukraine process, including the legal standards that will be applied to requests from Ukrainian citizens, whether there will be specific eligibility criteria Ukrainian applicants must meet, and whether attorneys will be able to submit applications on behalf of applicants or sponsors. It is also unclear what form the online application will take.
Other pathways for Ukrainians
In addition to Uniting for Ukraine, the United States is announcing a series of measures designed to expand access to existing legal pathways for Ukrainian citizens. The Department of State will expand U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) operations in Europe to provide eligible Ukrainians with greater access to refugee resettlement processing under the Lautenberg program for certain religious minorities, while also expanding referral mechanisms for Ukrainians and others fleeing Russia’s war in Ukraine who are in need of permanent resettlement.
What this means for prospective applicants and sponsors
The opening of streamlined humanitarian parole is hopeful news, but prospective beneficiaries and sponsors must be prepared for a potentially lengthy application process and the possibility of stringent eligibility criteria. There is likely to be a surge of applications when the Uniting for Ukraine web portal is unveiled on April 25, which could cause technical problems.