What programs are available to Ukrainians in the USA: how and where they can get help
The shocking, unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces in early 2022 resulted in a massive displacement of Ukrainians to other countries, especially Europe. Although moving to the US is less convenient, some Ukrainians have managed to get there, for example, on valid tourist visas. Edition Nolo considered their short and long term prospects.
Where are Ukrainian immigrants going?
According to the data portal United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine at the end of February 2022, more than 6 million Ukrainian temporarily displaced persons have been registered in Europe; since then, about 3 million people from Ukraine have applied for official legal protection in Europe or other countries.
The main countries in which Ukrainians seek asylum are Poland, Germany, Great Britain, Spain and Italy.
Options for citizens of Ukraine in the USA
If you are a Ukrainian who is already in the United States, whether legally or after an expired visa, there are steps you can take to protect your status in the short term and possibly stay longer than originally planned, even permanently .
Protecting your current US immigration status
While playing by the rules of your current visa is probably the last thing on your mind right now, not doing so could jeopardize your ability to stay in the United States. Luckily, the US government offers you several options. See more at immigration help page.
For example, if you are a student who has lost a source of financial support, you can ask the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to make a fast decision on your request for an off-campus work permit, which is available to F-1 students in severe economic hardship. USCIS allows some deviations from the usual rules for students from Ukraine so that they can work more by reducing their study load.
If you overstayed a visitor or other non-immigrant visa and were unable to apply for an extension on time due to the war, you may be allowed to apply late.
Long-Term Stay Opportunities in the US: TPS and Asylum
The United States generally offers two different types of humanitarian remedies for people who come to America to rescue and get out of difficult situations: temporary protected status (TPS) and asylum.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden announced that it is offering TPS to Ukrainians who were already in the U.S. as of March 1, 2022. This is not a long-term grant of immigration status, but it allows Ukrainians who have not left the United States since April 11, 2022 and who meet certain criteria to apply for a work permit and protection from deportation. So it doesn't make sense now to go to the United States and expect to get TPS - it won't work.
The TPS humanitarian legal protection for citizens of Ukraine officially entered into force on April 19, 2022, when it was published in the Federal Register. See application instructions at corresponding page of the USCIS website. The registration period runs from April 19, 2022 to October 19, 2023.
Applying for asylum is also possible for Ukrainians already in the United States and, unlike TPS, can potentially lead to a US green card (lawful permanent residence) and eventually citizenship of that country.
However, permission for asylum depends on purely individual circumstances; fleeing from war alone is not enough. You will need to prove that you are being persecuted or that you fear future persecution by the government or forces outside the government's control; that you have been or will be persecuted because of one of five criteria: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
If you decide you may be eligible for asylum, talk to a lawyer; many now offer free or low-cost services to Ukrainian citizens. Don't delay, the deadline for applying for asylum is one year (although there may be exceptions).
Options for Ukrainian citizens who fled to other countries
Due to the fact that the Ukrainians left their country because of the war, they became forced migrants, although they are colloquially called refugees. Countries across Europe and beyond are organizing to help them. First of all, it is the provision of basic food, shelter and other necessary assistance.
To obtain official recognition of refugee status, which gives a long-term right to reside in another country, formal steps must be taken: you must personally contact the UNHCR office, where you will be directed to a specific country that is ready and willing to accept asylum seekers.
Ukrainian refugees in the USA
There is no way to apply directly to the United States for refugee status, nor is there any guarantee as to which country you will be assigned to if approved by the UNHCR.
Unfortunately, the administration of President Donald Trump has gutted America's internally displaced admissions program, reducing the number of potential refugees to such a bare minimum that many resettlement agencies have been forced to close their doors. The Biden administration is working to revive the program, including by raising the U.S. refugee cap for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 to 125 annually.
In addition, under a program called “Unity for Ukraine,” the Biden administration will take 100 Ukrainian refugees to the US under a legal designation known as a “humanitarian password” (at one time this was offered to some people who fled Afghanistan).
Eligibility for this remedy will require financial sponsorship from a private source, such as a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or other person of financial ability and legal immigration status in the United States. Password recipients aged six months or older must show proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
Approved entry with a humanitarian password provides limited benefits, including a two-year stay in the US and a work permit. This authorization will be automatic for the first 90 days of stay if they can provide employers with an I-94 record. After that, they will need to apply to USCIS for a work permit (work permit document or EAD), there is no fee for the first permit.
Parole status does not lead directly to any permanent immigration status in the United States.
But Ukrainians can, if they are eligible, apply for asylum or other immigration benefits once they are in the United States.
For more information directly from the US Department of State, go to link.
Options for Ukrainian citizens who want to leave the country
The US Embassy in Kyiv is closed for security reasons. Therefore, it is not possible to apply for a new visa or travel document.
However, if you can get to any neighboring country, then, by order of the United States government, U.S. embassies there can accept U.S. visa applicants, especially non-immigrants.
True, you may not meet the usual criteria for, say, a B-2 tourist visa or some other non-immigrant visa (for example, for study or work). This requires proof of your intention to return home at the end of your stay in the US, which is a difficult issue if the person has fled their home country and US officials are not breaking the rules in this matter.
Regarding family immigrant visas (for example, if you are the spouse or child of a US citizen), US Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany appointed for their consideration, and U.S. Embassy Warsaw (Poland) handles adoption cases.
If you are visiting a US embassy or consulate, bring with you any of the documents you have to prove your identity (ideally, a passport). The American Embassy staff will understand the situation and will do their best to help if you left such documents in Ukraine.
How people in the US can help Ukrainian IDPs
As much as one would like to go to Ukraine and help all its citizens, it will be more effective to support various organizations that are experienced and already equipped to help in such situations.
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Your favorite charity may already be providing specialized assistance. For example, World central kitchen (founded by celebrity chef José Andrés) created facilities to feed people fleeing the war; International Humane Society helps rescue lost or abandoned pets; OutRight International, a global LGBTQ+ rights organization, is accepting donations on behalf of local Ukrainian LGBTQ+ organizations that help people find refuge, safety and security.
You also have the opportunity to support one of the main organizations providing wider assistance in Ukraine:
Of course, if you have direct contact with anyone in Ukraine, then it makes sense to try to contact them and offer support, particularly financial support, or direct them to reputable sources of information.
It will not be superfluous to visit page of the State Department of Information for Citizens of Ukraine.
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