President Biden’s Uniting for Ukraine program allows Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members who are outside the U.S. to temporarily come to the U.S. on a parole for a two-year period. Ukrainian beneficiaries cannot directly apply for parole through the program. Instead, they must have a U.S.-based supporter who initiates the process for them with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”).
The program just went live on Monday, April 25, 2022, so some details are not yet available or known, but the core eligibility and procedural rules are outlined below.
Who is an Eligible Supporter?
- An individual who holds lawful status in the United States or is a parolee or beneficiary of deferred action or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).
- For example: U.S. citizens and nationals, lawful permanent residents (including lawful temporary residents and conditional permanent residents), nonimmigrants in lawful status, asylees, refugees, parolees, TPS holders, and beneficiaries of deferred action (including DACA) or DED.
- Note: An organization, such as a corporation or a non-profit, cannot serve as the named supporter, but an organization may provide financial assistance or other support to the eligible supporter. In that case, the individual should provide evidence of the support they will receive from the organization.
- The supporter must pass security and background vetting and demonstrate sufficient financial resources to support the sponsored Ukrainian beneficiary.
- The supporter must commit to support the beneficiary for the duration of their stay in the U.S.
Who is an Eligible Beneficiary?
- The Ukrainian citizen who is outside the United States.
- The Ukrainian citizen’s Ukrainian or non-Ukrainian immediate family member (spouse or common law partner and unmarried children under the age of 21).
- Children under the age of 18, must be traveling with a parent or legal guardian to use this process.
- The beneficiary must have a supporter who initiated the process on their behalf and was approved to be a supporter by USCIS.
- The beneficiary must have resided in Ukraine immediately prior to the Russian invasion (through Feb. 11, 2022) and was displaced as a result of the invasion.
- The beneficiary must possess a valid Ukrainian passport or a valid passport for a non-Ukrainian immediate family member.
- The beneficiary must clear biographic and biometric security checks.
- The beneficiary must attest to vaccination and health-related requirements, which include being vaccinated for measles, polio, and COVID-19. If not previously vaccinated, individuals will need to receive a first dose of required vaccines prior to obtaining travel authorization to come to the United States.
Who is NOT an Eligible Beneficiary?
- The Ukrainian citizen who is present in the U.S.
- Children under the age of 18 traveling without their parent or legal guardian.
What are the Steps to Receive the Authorization to Travel through Uniting for Ukraine?
- The supporter files Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support online with USCIS listing the beneficiary’s information and providing financial records to establish eligibility.
- The supporter must be in the U.S. to file Form I-134 online.
- There is no fee to file I-134.
- USCIS reviews the form and supporting documents to determine whether the supporter has sufficient financial resources to support the beneficiary and conducts background checks on the supporter.
- If the Form I-134 is deemed sufficient by USCIS, the Ukrainian beneficiary will receive an email from USCIS with instructions to set up an online myUSCIS account and next steps.
- The Ukrainian beneficiary will need to confirm their biographic information and attest to completion of all requirements, including:
- Vaccination or exemption; and
- Medical screening for tuberculosis upon arrival to the U.S.
- Once the Ukrainian beneficiary has confirmed their biographic information and attested to completing other requirements, the case will be processed further. Once the beneficiary is authorized to travel, their online myUSCIS account will be updated accordingly. The authorization is valid for 90 days, allowing the beneficiary to travel within those 90 days.
- The beneficiary is responsible for securing their own travel via air to the U.S.
- The beneficiary will need to meet an CDC travel requirements in existence at the time of travel, such as pre-departure COVID-19 testing.
- With the authorization to travel, the Ukrainian beneficiary may travel to the U.S., be considered for parole for a period of up to two years and be eligible to apply for employment authorization upon arrival.
- If the Form I-134 is deemed insufficient by USCIS, the decision is final, and no appeal is available. A denial, however, will not adversely affect the supporter or the beneficiary. The supporter may file a new form for the same or new beneficiary with updated financial records, or a different supporter may file for the same beneficiary. Also, a few supporters may join together to establish financial ability to file for one beneficiary, if needed.
What Happens after the Beneficiary is Paroled to the U.S.?
- The beneficiary may apply for discretionary employment authorization document (“EAD”) by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with the required fee or a fee waiver.
- The beneficiary may apply for a Social Security Number through the Form I-765 or through the Social Security office once the EAD has been received.
- The beneficiary must keep USCIS updated on any address changes within 10 days of moving within the U.S.
- If the beneficiary departs the U.S. without any prior advance authorization to travel, the parole will be automatically terminated.
- If the beneficiary violates any U.S. laws, the parole may be terminated as well.
What is Still Unknown as of Now?
- USCIS has not listed the expected processing times for the program, so we do not know how long each step will take, nor how long the entire process will take.
- USCIS has not listed threshold or guidelines on “sufficient” financial resources for the supporter to be approved. We assume standard Poverty Guidelines apply, but it is unclear at this point.
We are closely monitoring the updates and will provide more details once available. If you need help with the Uniting for Ukraine process or have any questions, do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 427-6163 or schedule a consultation online.