Millions of people around the globe are displaced from their homes by famine, persecution, poverty, civil war, natural disasters and the effects of climate change. The U.S. manages various programs such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), asylum and refugee admissions to provide certain foreign nationals with the ability to remain in or enter the U.S. on a short or long term basis. These programs benefit only a small portion of people facing such extreme challenges.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine displaced and endangers millions of Ukrainians. President Biden announced a plan to welcome Ukrainians fleeing the war through the “Uniting for Ukraine” program, which provides humanitarian parole for up to two years to qualifying Ukrainians. Humanitarian parole allows noncitizens to enter the U.S. temporarily on a case by case basis for an urgent humanitarian reason or significant public benefit.
How does this program work? We will provide a brief summary. Ukrainians who wish to participate must be outside the U.S., and have an identified supporter in the U.S. who agrees to file an Affidavit of Support form called the I-134 with the United Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
If the U.S. supporter is deemed qualified, then the government will contact the Ukrainian applicant to complete the process. The Ukrainian will complete an application after setting up an account with USCIS , which does require access to a computer or phone. The U.S. government will require the applicant or applicants to undergo additional screening and vetting before receiving final approval to make travel arrangements to the U.S.
Entry through the Untied for Ukraine program is NOT the same as a visa, or permanent residence (green card). Humanitarian parole will last up to two years. The Ukrainian arrival, however, will be eligible to apply for work authorization upon arrival. Issuance of work authorization can take several months or more. It may be possible to apply for permanent residence through employment or a family relationship, or political asylum, but that is not guaranteed. It remains to be seen whether the US government will reauthorize additional periods of parole or whether Ukrainians will be able to return safely to Ukraine after a period of time in the U.S.