Starting today, Ukrainian citizens can be sponsored for humanitarian parole online under the Uniting for Ukraine program, a new application process. To qualify, beneficiaries must have been resident in Ukraine immediately prior to the Russian invasion through February 11, 2022, hold a valid Ukrainian passport or be the spouse, common law partner or child of a Ukrainian citizen, and have a U.S.-based sponsor. U.S. sponsors initiate the process by filing a declaration of support with USCIS, certifying their commitment to provide financial and other support to named beneficiaries. Approved beneficiaries are eligible for parole into the United States and work authorization for up to two years.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Uniting for Ukraine process is now open on the USCIS website, permitting eligible Ukrainian citizens and certain immediate family members who have been displaced by Russian aggression to be sponsored online for humanitarian parole to the United States by an eligible U.S.-based sponsor. A Federal Register notice providing further details on the program will be published on April 27, 2022; an advance copy of the notice is available.
Ukrainians and their family members 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, beneficiaries will be eligible to apply for work authorization.
Through the new process, U.S.-based individuals can apply to sponsor eligible Ukrainian citizens and their immediate relatives who meet the following criteria:
- Are outside the United States;
- Resided in Ukraine immediately prior to the Russian invasion through February 11, 2022 and were displaced as a result of the invasion;
- Are a Ukrainian citizen and hold a valid Ukrainian passport, or are a child included on a parent’s passport;
- If not a Ukrainian citizen, are an immediate family member of a Ukrainian citizen beneficiary of Uniting for Ukraine with a valid passport;
- Immediate family members include a spouse or common-law partner and unmarried children under 21;
- If the beneficiary is a child under 18, the child must be traveling with a parent or legal guardian;
- Unaccompanied children are not eligible for parole in the Uniting for Ukraine program, and may be placed in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services if they arrive unaccompanied in the United States. Unaccompanied children may seek parole through the standard humanitarian parole process;
- Have been vaccinated against measles and polio, and received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination approved by the U.S. FDA or the World Health Organization;
- Attest to a medical screening for tuberculosis within 14 days of arrival in the United States; and
- Pass security and background checks.
Who can serve as a sponsor?
Individuals who hold lawful U.S. immigration status or are parolees or beneficiaries of deferred action can serve as a sponsor under Uniting for Ukraine. This includes:
- U.S. citizens and nationals;
- U.S. lawful permanent residents;
- Nonimmigrants in lawful status;
- Holders of Temporary Protected Status;
- Beneficiaries of deferred action, including DACA beneficiaries; and –
- Individuals holding Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).
Sponsors can include individuals acting on behalf of an organization. Multiple sponsors can join together to support beneficiaries.
What are the obligations of sponsorship?
Individuals seeking to sponsor Ukrainian citizens in the United States must complete USCIS Form I-134, the Declaration of Support online and provide detailed information about their income, employment, and assets. If an organization or entity is providing support services to a beneficiary, the sponsor’s application should include this information as supporting evidence.
Sponsors may be required to appear at a USCIS office to be photographed and fingerprinted, and pass background and security checks to protect against exploitation and abuse.
In signing Form I-134, sponsors commit to provide financial and other support to beneficiaries for the duration of the parole, or up to two years. This can include ensuring that the beneficiary has adequate housing and basic necessities; helping the beneficiary access benefits and services (such as obtaining employment authorization, a Social Security card, and education); helping the beneficiary obtain employment; and ensuring that the beneficiary’s health care and medical needs are met for the duration of the parole.
The application process
Sponsors must submit Form I-134 online, listing the beneficiaries they plan to sponsor. Once the form is filed, USCIS will conduct a review of the sponsor’s financial ability to support the beneficiaries and complete background checks.
If USCIS approves the sponsor, it will email each sponsored beneficiary with instructions on setting up an account in myUSCIS, the agency’s application portal. Each beneficiary will need to access their account to verify their biographic information and other details. They will also need to attest to the completion of other requirements, including vaccinations and health screenings. USCIS will send this information to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which will vet each beneficiary against national security and law enforcement databases.
Once each beneficiary clears review, USCIS will issue an authorization to travel and other instructions to the beneficiary’s myUSCIS account. The travel authorization is valid for 90 days. Beneficiaries must travel to the United States within this period.
Each beneficiary is responsible for arranging travel to the United States and must present the USCIS travel authorization to the airline to obtain a boarding pass.
After arrival in the United States
On arrival in the United States, the beneficiary will be inspected by a CBP officer who will make a case-by-case determination of the individual’s request for parole. If the beneficiary clears inspection, they should be paroled into the United States for a period of up to two years. Within 14 days after arrival, each beneficiary must receive a tuberculosis screening, including an Interferon-Gamma Release Assays (IGRA) test.
Beneficiaries who wish to work in the United States must apply for an employment authorization document on USCIS Form I-765 and pay the required fee or seek a fee waiver.
Prospective beneficiaries and their sponsors should be prepared for a potentially lengthy application and screening process. The U.S. government has not specified how long it will take to process Uniting for Ukraine applications, but because application volume is expected to be high, wait times of several months or more cannot be ruled out.