PARSIPPANY, N.J. – U.S. President Joe Biden on April 21 announced the details of a program that will allow 100,000 displaced persons fleeing the war in Ukraine to enter the United States for a period of up to two years.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will manage the program, known as Uniting for Ukraine, that will accept Ukrainian refugees under a category known as humanitarian parole.
“The Ukrainian people continue to suffer immense tragedy and loss as a result of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on their country,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement released on April 21.
“DHS 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,” Mr. Mayorkas said.
The conditions of humanitarian parole are different from conditions of other pathways of entry into the United States, such as the asylum or the family reunification pathways. The latter two offer paths to citizenship and permanent residence in the United States, whereas humanitarian parole does not.
Those accepted through the Uniting for Ukraine humanitarian parole process can stay in the United States for up to two years and will be able to work during their stay.
After the term of the parole is up, program participants are expected to return to their home country and not remain permanently in the United States.
“Uniting for Ukraine is a streamlined process focused specifically on those who fled Ukraine in recent months because of war,” said Matthew La Corte, immigration policy expert at the Niskanen Center, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. “Entry into the United States through this process is quicker than through other pathways. The trade off, however, is that there will be no offer of citizenship at the end. This program is designed specifically to provide a temporary refuge.”
CNN reported that the program had received more than 4,000 applications as of April 28.
Each of the 100,000 displaced persons accepted through the Uniting for Ukraine program must have a sponsor. Sponsor applications (sometimes referred to as supporter applications), will be managed through the DHS office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Sponsor applications became available online on April 25 via Form I-134 (Declaration of Financial Support). All application fees have been waived for the Uniting for Ukraine program.
Sponsors can specifically identify displaced individuals whom they are willing to support, such as friends and family members. However, before being accepted for entry into the U.S., each displaced person must meet the following criteria:
– the individual must have been living in Ukraine on February 11 and been displaced as a result of Russia’s war on Ukraine;
– the individual must be a Ukrainian citizen and possess a valid Ukrainian passport (or be a child included on a parent’s passport), or be an immediate family member of a Ukrainian citizen who is applying through Uniting for Ukraine;
– the individual must have a sponsor who filed Form I-134 (Declaration of Financial Support) on their behalf and that form has been confirmed as sufficient by USCIS;
– the individual must complete all required vaccinations and other public health requirements;
– the individual must clear biometric and biographic screening and vetting security checks.
Additionally, children under age 18 must travel to the U.S. in the care and custody of their parent or legal guardian.
DHS officials noted that each sponsor applicant will be vetted to protect against exploitation and abuse of displaced persons. The applications will also be reviewed to ensure that sponsors are able to provide financial support and that displaced persons can have their housing and other basic needs met, such as access to the educational system and employment.
Individual sponsors, including family members of displaced persons, must be U.S. citizens, permanent or other lawful U.S. residents. Non-profit organizations, religious entities, educational institutions and employers can also apply to be sponsors.
After World War II, the U.S. developed a similar program to bring displaced persons to America. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians living in European displaced persons camps came to the U.S. with the help of such sponsors.
Among the numerous sponsors at that time were branches of the Ukrainian National Association, as well as organizations such as the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) and the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee (ZUDAK).
That program, unlike the current Uniting for Ukraine program, did offer a path to citizenship since there was no expectation that World War II refugees would want to return to the Soviet Union.
For detailed information about the Uniting for Ukraine program, readers can visit dhs.gov/ukraine or the USCIS sponsor application site, https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/uniting-for-ukraine.