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 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-134A, 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. People with a pending asylum application and no other status are not eligible to be a sponsor. However, people with valid parole are eligible to be sponsors. 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, regardless of whether the Ukrainian beneficiary will reside with the sponsor or not.
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-134A 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-134A requires an individual to sign the form; organizations may not serve as the named supporter on a Form I-134A. 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-134A and will be taken into account in determining the supporter’s ability to support the named beneficiary.
Form I-134A 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 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.
Form I-134A also asks the sponsor to explain why the beneficiary merits a discretionary grant of parole for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. The information collected by USCIS about the beneficiary is passed on to CBP for the next stage of the vetting process, which is conducted by CBP. The narrative that is entered in response to the question about why the beneficiary deserves a grant of parole helps USCIS provide a more compelling case to CBP as to why the beneficiary should be granted humanitarian parole.
Where can sponsors find out more about the process of sponsorship and resources available to sponsors and Ukrainians?
On June 22, 2022, 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-134A?
The process is entirely online. Sponsors must first create a USCIS account and then fill out the I-134A. 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-134A 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-134A on their behalf that has been vetted and confirmed as sufficient by USCIS.
- Show why they deserve a discretionary grant of humanitarian parole for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.
- 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. An immediate family member is a spouse, common-law spouse, or unmarried child under the age of 21. In addition, non-Ukrainian citizens must travel on U4U together with their Ukrainian citizen family member.
There have been increasing reports of denials for non-Ukrainian family members. It is advisable for a sponsor filing Form I-134A for a mixed-passport family to include all identity evidence when filing every form I-134A, such as a copy and translation of the marriage certificate and/or birth certificates and listing the passport numbers of all family members–Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian so that USCIS will have full family information when reviewing the sponsor application for each beneficiary.
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. The parent or legal guardian must also be traveling on the U4U program, and the child and parent/guardian must be part of the same travel group. Minors under the age of 18 cannot fill out their own vaccination attestations after the approval of the sponsor. Instead, the minor must first be added in the travel group of their parent or legal guardian, who then provides the vaccine attestation for the minor. Similarly, non-Ukrainian spouses of Ukrainian citizens cannot submit their own vaccine attestations. Instead, their Ukrainian spouse should first add them to the travel group and then submit the attestation.
Ukrainians already in the United States are not eligible for this program. Although there were reports in summer 2022 of Ukrainians within the United States obtaining travel authorization, departing, and re-entering on U4U, this is not advisable. In the intervening months, more reports surfaced of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) denying entry to Ukrainians in this position. Attempting to depart the U.S. and reenter on U4U is risky. Additionally, advocates for Ukrainians report incidents of Ukrainians who fled Ukraine in the early days of the war and then spent several months in a third country being denied entry to the United States.
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-134A with USCIS on behalf of a Ukrainian beneficiary and include information about them and contact details, such as email address. If the Form I-134A 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 CBP.
If the sponsor’s Form I-134A is confirmed, USCIS will send an email to the Ukrainian beneficiary with instructions about how to set up an online USCIS account. The beneficiary will be required to confirm their biographic information on their USCIS account and submit an attestation certifying that they understand the requirements for children under 18 and an attestation that they have completed vaccine requirements. After the beneficiary arrives in the United States they must attest to receiving a tuberculosis test within 90 days.
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. Potential sponsors and beneficiaries create profiles on the platform. Beneficiaries can then contact sponsors to communicate as to whether the sponsorship would be a good fit. 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.
Do Ukrainians who get parole under this program also get work authorization?
USCIS announced on November 21, 2022 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.” There is no filing fee for the I-765 application for a work permit filed with a paper application or e for an I-765 application filed electronically online.