Starting April 25, 2022, the “Uniting for Ukraine” program for Ukrainians seeking to enter the United States will allow Ukrainians who are sponsored by family members or non-governmental agencies to come to the United States and apply for a two-year humanitarian parole.
While humanitarian parole does not offer a direct pathway to long-term residence in the United States, it provides temporary residence and allows beneficiaries to seek other immigration options. Due to this program, which is intended as a streamlined, fast track option for those with sponsors, the United States wants to stem the tide of Ukrainians who are arriving at the Mexican border. While it seems that it may be possible to apply for Uniting at the Mexican border, the process will be more difficult, and the United States may no longer waive Title 42 for Ukrainians. Title 42 allows the expulsion of migrants who arrive at the border without permitting them to apply for asylum.
To date, while some Ukrainians have made it to the United States, the Uniting program is meant to help the United States meet its announced goals of opening its doors for up to 100,000 Ukrainian citizens and others seeking to leave Ukraine. Other legal pathways include Temporary Protected Status (TPS), immigrant and nonimmigrant visa routes, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, “regular” humanitarian parole, and asylum.
TPS is helpful for Ukrainians already in the United States continuously since April 11, 2022, but not for those currently attempting to flee, unless the DHS moves the eligibility date further forward.
About two hundred immigrant visas and 1,500 temporary nonimmigrant visas were issued to Ukrainians in February 2022. Visitor visas, which require an intent for only a temporary stay in the United States and a showing of definitive plans to return to the home country, are generally not available for Ukrainians due to their uncertain near-term future.
The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (unlike humanitarian parole) can lead to U.S. citizenship, but the path is very long. In January and February 2022, 514 Ukrainians made it to the United States through the refugee route. Only 12 made it in March 2022, as flight cancellations related to the conflict limited the number of those who were able to leave.
The normal humanitarian parole program, which will still be available for Ukrainians who do not have sponsors, can be granted on urgent humanitarian grounds. Yet, the high bar for meeting these grounds can make it unavailable as an alternative to the regular visa issuing or the refugee application processes. So far, 350 Ukrainians have been granted “regular” humanitarian parole, including 28 children who were granted parole for medical care purposes.
Asylum is for Ukrainians who have been persecuted or demonstrate reasonable fear of persecution on account of their nationality, race, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. One of the eligibility criteria for asylum is being in the United States. Thousands of Ukrainians have entered the United States through the Mexican border. Some have had U.S. visas, but most have applied for asylum. Reportedly, there are 2,400 Ukrainians waiting for asylum processing in Tijuana, Mexico. With the start of the Uniting program and the rescission of the Title 42 exception for Ukrainians, those still waiting in Tijuana, if sponsored, may have to try to apply for the Uniting program from the border.
Jackson Lewis attorneys will provide updates as they become available.