Uniting for Ukraine
The program is intended to provide a “streamlined” process so that Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members who are outside the United States can come to the United States and stay temporarily in a two-year period of humanitarian parole.
What is Uniting for Ukraine?
This document provides an initial, brief explanation of the newly created Uniting for Ukraine program. The program is intended to provide a “streamlined” process so that Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members who are outside the United States can come to the United States and stay temporarily in a two-year period of humanitarian parole.
Ukrainians participating in Uniting for Ukraine must have a sponsor in the United States who agrees to provide them with financial support for the duration of their stay in the United States.
The first step in the Uniting for Ukraine process is for the U.S.-based sponsor to file a Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support, with USCIS. The sponsor will then be vetted by the U.S. government to ensure that they are able to financially support the individual whom they agree to support.
Who is eligible to be a sponsor?
An individual who has lawful status in the United States can apply to be a sponsor. Individuals who have lawful status includes U.S. citizens and nationals, lawful permanent residents (including lawful temporary residents and conditional permanent residents), nonimmigrants in lawful status (i.e., maintain the nonimmigrant status and have not violated any of the terms or conditions of the nonimmigrant status), asylees, refugees, parolees, TPS holders, and beneficiaries of deferred action (including DACA) or Deferred Enforced Departure. The supporter must pass a background check and show that they have sufficient financial resources to support the individual who they sponsor for the duration of their stay in the United States.
How much money must the supporter have?
USCIS does not answer this question on its website but has said in informational sessions with stakeholders that it will look at the federal poverty guidelines. Sponsors are expected to have an income above the federal poverty threshold for their household size, where the Ukrainian(s) coming on the Uniting for Ukraine program are included in household size.
What kind of support must sponsors provide?
Examples of the types of support for beneficiaries that sponsors should keep in mind when considering their ability to meet this commitment include:
- Receiving the beneficiary upon arrival in the United States and transporting them to initial housing;
- Ensuring that the beneficiary has safe and appropriate housing for the duration of the parole and initial basic necessities;
- As appropriate, assisting the beneficiary in completing necessary paperwork such as that related to employment authorization, social security card, and for services for which they may be eligible;
- Ensuring that the beneficiary’s health care and medical needs are met for the duration of the parole; and
- As appropriate, assisting the beneficiary with accessing education, learning English, securing employment and enrolling children in school.
Multiple supporters may join together to have the financial ability to support one or more Ukrainian beneficiaries. In this case, a primary supporter should file a Form I-134 and include in the filing supplementary evidence demonstrating the identity of, and resources to be provided by, the additional supporters and attach a statement explaining the intention for shared responsibility. These supporters’ ability to support Ukrainian beneficiaries will be assessed collectively.
The Form I-134 requires an individual to sign the form; organizations may not serve as the named supporter on a Form I-134. However, if an organization or other entity is providing financial or other services to the named individual for the purpose of facilitating support, this information should be provided as part of the evidence submitted with the Form I-134 and will be taken into account in determining the supporter’s ability to support the named beneficiary.
In mid-October 2022, the U.S. government slightly amended Form I-134, the Declaration of Financial Support. It now requires sponsors to provide narrative descriptions of the specific support to be provided. Sponsors must describe the resources they plan to use or provide to ensure the beneficiary has the adequate financial support to cover basic living needs, explain how they intend to ensure the beneficiary’s housing needs are met (including where the beneficiary will live), and describe the steps the sponsor will take to help the beneficiary learn English, find a job once work authorized, enroll children in school, and access other services and benefits.
Where can sponsors find out more about the process of sponsorship and resources available to sponsors and Ukrainians?
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. Please refer to our article to learn more about Sponsorship Matching for Uniting for Ukraine.
How do sponsors file Form I-134?
The process is entirely online. Sponsors must first create a USCIS account and then fill out the I-134. Sponsors should have the following information and documentation ready when they begin filling out the form:
- Passport data for the beneficiary
- Beneficiary’s contact information, including physical address, mailing address, phone number, and email address. It is essential that the beneficiary have a valid email address.
- Beneficiary’s income, dependents, and assets if those assets can be liquidated and will be used for support of the beneficiary in the United States.
- Sponsor’s income, dependents, and assets if those assets can be liquidated and will be used for support of the beneficiary in the United States.
- Statement from bank office detailing date account opened, total amount deposited for past year, and present balance.
- Employer letter on business stationery including date and nature of employment, salary paid, and whether the position is temporary or permanent.
- Tax returns.
- Documentation of assets if those assets will be used to support the beneficiary in the United States.
Since the program began, anecdotal evidence appears to show that USCIS is approving I-134 declarations of support if sponsors are able to show sufficient income, even if they do not include employer letters, bank officer statements, etc.
Who is eligible to be a beneficiary?
A beneficiary must:
- be a Ukrainian citizen and hold a valid Ukrainian passport, or if a child, be included on a parent’s passport.
- have resided in Ukraine immediately prior to the Russian invasion, at least through February 11, 2022 and been displaced as a result of the invasion. It is not necessary that someone have fled Ukraine and it is not necessary that they have moved within Ukraine. If a Ukrainian in Ukraine feels in danger and wants to seek safety through this program, the U.S. government encourages them to do so.
- have supporter who filed a Form I-134 on their behalf that has been vetted and confirmed as sufficient by USCIS; and
- pass biographic and biometric security checks; and
- demonstrate proof of first doses of measles, polio, and COVID-19 vaccines and must complete a screening for tuberculosis for all individuals two years of age or older.
In order for non-Ukrainian citizens to be eligible for the program, they must be the immediate family member of a Ukrainian citizen beneficiary of Uniting for Ukraine.
To be eligible for this process, children under the age of 18 must be traveling to the United States in the care and custody of their parent or legal guardian.
Ukrainians already in the United States are not eligible for this program.
Can Ukrainians apply for parole under this program?
No. Ukrainian beneficiaries cannot directly apply for parole under Uniting for Ukraine. A sponsor must first complete and file Form I-134 with USCIS on behalf of a Ukrainian beneficiary and include information about them and contact details, such as email address. If the Form I-134 is deemed sufficient by USCIS, the Ukrainian beneficiary will receive information from USCIS about the next step in the process to be considered for authorization to travel to the United States and parole consideration by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
What about Ukrainians who do not have a sponsor?
Welcome.us has created a platform to connect Ukrainian displaced persons who wish to come to the United States with Americans who want to sponsor Ukrainians but do not have an existing relationship with a Ukrainian. This platform is scheduled to be fully operational after June 29, 2022. Although there are many groups on social media that purport to connect potential sponsors with Ukrainians, we urge Ukrainians to be extremely cautious of sponsorship from strangers if there is no connection through a trusted, known intermediary.
What about Ukrainians in Mexico?
USCIS announced that as of April 25, 2022, the primary process for Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion and seeking parole into the United States is through Uniting for Ukraine. This process enables approved Ukrainians to travel to the United States, be considered for parole for a period of up to two years, and be eligible to apply for employment authorization while in the United States. The United States strongly encourages Ukrainians in Europe who seek to travel to the United States to complete the request from Europe. Ukrainians who present at U.S. land ports of entry without a valid visa or without pre-authorization to travel to the United States through Uniting for Ukraine are likely to be denied entry and referred to apply through this process.
Will Ukrainians who get parole under this program also get work authorization?
USCIS announced on November 21 that Ukrainians paroled into the United States under the U4U program, as well as those paroled at the southern border between February 24, 2022 and September 30, 2023, are legally authorized to work incident to the grant of parole. They may present their I-94 entry card to employers as proof of authorization to work for 90 days from the date of employment. After that, they must show the employer a work permit or an unrestricted Social Security card, meaning, a card that does not say “valid for work only with DHS authorization.” It is not yet clear if the Social Security Administration will issue unrestricted Social Security cards to Ukrainian parolees. There will be no filing fee for the I-765 application for a work permit filed with a paper application, and starting December 5, 2022, there will be no filing fee for an I-765 application filed electronically online. Ukrainians who were paroled prior to November 21, 2022 who have not yet received their work permits are now authorized to work pursuant to this new policy.