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U.S. Immigration Updates Relating to the War in Ukraine

March 07, 2022
Aaron Lawee

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia is heartbreaking, especially for those who have family members directly impacted by the war. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has not yet put into place an effective system to help Ukrainians in need come to the United States. Although there are constant changes and developments, our office is doing our best to stay informed and to notify the public about available options.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv has closed:

As most people know, the embassy in Kyiv has closed, and Ukrainians were added to the list of “Homeless Nationalities.” This means that Ukrainians cannot process their visa applications in Ukraine, and instead, must process their visa applications in other countries. For people applying to become permanent residents (also known as “immigrant visas”), their cases are automatically being transferred to the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt, Germany. For temporary visas (i.e., visitor visas, student visas, etc.), their cases may be processed at any U.S. consulate where the Ukrainian is physically located and can schedule an appointment. A list of available U.S. consulates is available here: https://www.usembassy.gov . Please note that Ukrainian citizens may need visas to enter certain countries, but a Schengen visa is NOT necessary for them to enter Germany or Poland.

Processing nonimmigrant (temporary) visas in Poland:

Ukrainians can apply for temporary nonimmigrant visas (e.g., B-2 visitor, F-1 student, etc.) in Poland and should be allowed to enter Poland without difficulty, assuming they are allowed to leave Ukraine. The consulates in Warsaw may process emergency B-2 tourist visas for family members of U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents. While any Ukrainian can apply for a tourist visa, the consulate is prioritizing those with certain family members in the U.S.:

  1. If you already began the process in Ukraine, you can send a request to Support-Poland@ustraveldocs.com to transfer your case to Warsaw;
  2. If you have not begun a visa application, you can attempt to schedule a visa interview at this website: https://www.ustraveldocs.com/pl/en/step-4
  3. If you wish to expedite your visa application, you may do so here: https://www.ustraveldocs.com/pl/en/expedited-appointment
  4. Ukrainian who are the spouse of child of a U.S. citizen can try applying for a group visa through this website: https://ustraveldocs.com/pl/en/group-appointments

Please note the following important information:

  1. The requirement that visa applicants be vaccinated against COVID-19 has been temporarily waived for Ukrainians.
  2. If you have already paid the fee for a nonimmigrant visa to be processed in Ukraine, you will likely have to pay that fee again to process your case through a different consulate.
  3. Most nonimmigrant visas, particularly the B-2 tourist visa, require showing “nonimmigrant intent” or the intention to only come to the U.S. temporarily and return to the applicant’s home country within 6 months of entry. Given the war in the Ukraine, it may be difficult to establish this intent unless the applicant has ties to another country outside of the U.S.
  4. It is extremely difficult to obtain a visa appointment due to the high volume of requests. The consulates were already at limited capacity due to COVID-19, and it may take many attempts to schedule an appointment, even one that is many months away.

There are certain types of green card cases that are being process in Warsaw as well, such as adoption-based immigrant visas. If your case is being processed in Warsaw, you can email the consulate at ImmigrantVisasWarsaw@state.gov with any questions.

Processing immigrant (permanent) visas in Germany:

Ukrainian citizens applying for permanent residency (immigrant visas or “green cards”) or K-1 fiancé visas should have their cases automatically transferred to Frankfurt, Germany. Ukrainians do not need a visa to enter Germany. You can contact the embassy in Frankfurt with FrankfurtVisaInquiries@state.gov or support-germany@ustraveldocs.com. Be sure to use the following in the subject line: C22 – UKRAINE – [FULL NAME]. In the body of the email, be sure to include your full name, date of birth, the details of your current situation, and whether you are the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen of permanent resident.

If you do not wish to have your case processed in Frankfurt, you can contact another consulate and ask if they will accept your case, but there is no guarantee. You can also email KyivIV@state.gov to try to obtain additional information about your case.

Applying for Asylum or Refugee Status in the U.S.:

Asylum in the U.S. must be requested inside the U.S. or at the U.S. port of entry (i.e., U.S. border or airport in the U.S.) You cannot apply for asylum from abroad, but if you are able to present yourself at the border or airport, you can express your fear of return and you may be allowed to enter the United States to apply for asylum. It is important to note that asylum protection only applies to applicants who fear persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Running away from war is generally not grounds to seek asylum in the U.S.

Refugee status is generally granted by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Meaning, the United States does NOT accept or screen applications for refugees who are outside of the U.S. If the UNHCR grants an applicant’s request for refugee status, the UNHCR may send the individual to the U.S. or to another 3rd country willing to accept them. More information can be found here: https://www.unhcr.org/ua/en

General Requests to Expedite:

If you already have an active case for a family-based immigrant visa, employment-based immigrant visa, a temporary nonimmigrant visa, or any other U.S. immigration benefit, you can always make a request to expedite your case with the appropriate agency, whether the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of State. Request to expedite should always be accompanied by documentation to show the humanitarian basis for the request. Unfortunately, due to the high volume of these cases, your request may go unanswered or may be denied. These requests can be made by the applicant or family member, or by a member of Congress. Further information can be found here:

https://www.uscis.gov/forms/filing-guidance/how-to-make-an-expedite-request

Ukrainians Inside the United States:

Ukrainians in the United States have now been designated for Temporary Protected Stats (TPS), which means any Ukrainian citizen who was in the United States on March 1, 2022 can apply for protection from deportation, a work permit and a Social Security number. Please see our website for additional information: https://www.mmhpc.com/biden-grants-temporary-protected-status-tps-to-ukrainians-in-the-u-s/

Furthermore, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) has temporarily halted deportation flights to Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Meaning, individuals from these countries that have already been ordered to be removed will have their actual deportation delayed for now.

Ukrainians Fleeing to Canada:

Canada has created the “Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel” for individuals fleeing Ukraine. More information can be found here:

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2022/03/canada-to-welcome-those-fleeing-the-war-in-ukraine.html#shr-pg0

Minsky McCormick & Hallagan is doing everything we can to support those fleeing war in Ukraine. We stand with the people of Ukraine, and everyone else impacted by this heartbreaking crisis.

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