Biden administration announces new program for Ukrainians interested in coming to the US

Priscilla Alvarez

US President Joe Biden’s administration announced a new program Thursday called “Uniting for Ukraine” that will provide a streamlined process for Ukrainians seeking to come to the United States.

The move is part of Biden’s commitment to accept up to 100,000 people fleeing war-torn Ukraine and is designed to more quickly get Ukrainians interested in coming to the US to the country.

Administration officials said Thursday that many Ukrainians still plan to stay in Europe, but the new program is expected to serve the majority of the 100,000 commitment.

CNN reported earlier Thursday that the humanitarian parole program will require Ukrainians seeking entry to the US to be sponsored by a US citizen or individual, which would include resettlement organizations and non-profit organizations.

Administration officials said Thursday that individuals will need to undergo rigorous security vetting and checks, including biographic and biometric screening, and complete vaccinations and other public health requirements, including receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, to be eligible. Ukrainians must have also been residents in Ukraine as of Feb. 11.

Sponsors need to pass security background checks of their own as well as declare financial support. There is not a limit on the number of individuals that a person or group can sponsor, but administration officials noted they’ll be evaluating their means and ability to support Ukrainians. The Department of Homeland Security will administer the program.

“DHS will continue to provide relief to the Ukrainian people, while supporting our European allies who have shouldered so much as the result of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

Through this process, Ukrainian applicants would be allowed to travel to the US and be considered for humanitarian parole on a case-by-case basis for up to two years. If accepted, the individuals would be eligible for work authorization.

Individuals can begin submitting applications through an online portal on April 25.

The limited pathways to the US so far have resulted in hundreds of Ukrainians going to Mexico, where it’s easier to obtain a visa, to then try to enter the US through land ports of entry.

A Homeland Security official stressed Thursday that Ukrainians shouldn’t travel to Mexico to enter the US.

“Following the launch of Uniting for Ukraine, Ukrainians who present at land U.S. ports of entry without a valid visa or without pre-authorization to travel to the United States through Uniting for Ukraine will be denied entry and referred to apply through this program,” according to DHS.

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