Sponsorship Matching for Uniting for Ukraine
Welcome Connect: a sponsorship matching online portal
On June 22, Welcome.us launched the first stage of Welcome Connect, an online portal to match Americans who want to sponsor Ukrainians and Ukrainians in search of sponsors under the Uniting For Ukraine Program.
What is Welcome.us?
Welcome.us is a coalition initially created to help Americans welcome and support Afghans fleeing to the United States after the Taliban takeover. It is aimed at helping ordinary citizens collaborate to help resettle people who have been displaced by war or unrest. During the Trump administration, the number of refugees allowed into the United States decreased sharply and the funding of refugee resettlement agencies was slashed. Given that reality and the fact that traditional overseas refugee resettlement can be a years-long process, Welcome.us was launched to help harness private resources to assist in welcoming and resettling Afghans fleeing danger. Welcome.us has since expanded to include those fleeing the war in Ukraine.
How does the Match Work?
Sponsors may now register on the Welcome.us portal, after they complete several online training modules about the sponsorship process. Starting June 29, Ukrainians are now able to register to match with sponsors and in July, Ukrainians will be able to browse listings of sponsors and contact a potential sponsor if they want to chat. The choice to connect remains with the Ukrainian beneficiary.
Sponsors and Beneficiaries Should Communicate
After the Ukrainian beneficiary chooses to connect with the sponsor, but prior to agreeing to sponsorship, it is advisable that potential sponsors speak with the beneficiary. In particular, it is important to discuss in detail with potential beneficiaries the level of support the sponsors are able to provide and also explain to potential beneficiaries the limitations of the U.S. social safety net and the reality of local real estate markets, as well as the likelihood that the beneficiary may have to wait several months for approval of their work permit. Sponsorship is not finalized until both parties agree, and the sponsor files the I-134 declaration of financial support.
What Must Sponsors Do for Ukrainian Beneficiaries?
Once a sponsor and beneficiary have connected and agreed to sponsorship, a sponsor must file the I-134 declaration of financial support online to begin the process of sponsoring a Ukrainian beneficiary under U4U. The I-134 requires that the sponsor describe the financial support they will provide to the beneficiary and upload tax returns and other financial documents indicating that they have sufficient resources. Government websites about Uniting for Ukraine and the Welcome.us website indicate that sponsors should assist with housing, living expenses, and medical care, as well as help children enroll in school and adults find jobs. That said, most attorneys believe that the I-134 declaration of financial support is not a legally enforceable document. Ukrainians who enter the United States on humanitarian parole, whether at the southern border or through U4U, are eligible for resettlement assistance in the form of cash benefits, food stamps, and medical insurance. There is no harm or risk to a sponsor if their Ukrainian beneficiary enrolls in these public benefit programs; Ukrainian beneficiaries are eligible for benefits and it is not expected that sponsors would or could cover every penny of their expenses. Sponsors should talk to beneficiaries about the importance of reporting income information accurately when applying for benefits.
Do Ukrainian Beneficiaries Owe Their Sponsors Anything?
Ukrainian beneficiaries do not owe their sponsors anything. A sponsor should not require child care, housekeeping, or other labor from their beneficiary. Ukrainian beneficiaries are not required to repay their sponsors any expenses. If a sponsor is providing housing to a beneficiary, the beneficiary is free to move elsewhere at any time. Sponsors should neither force nor prohibit their beneficiaries from applying for public benefits; that choice is for the beneficiary to make.