Briefing

Biden's plan to help Ukrainian refugees

The administration says it will admit up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. But how will the program work?

This week, the Department of Homeland Security launched Uniting for Ukraine, a program to help people seeking temporary resettlement in the United States due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Biden administration has said it will admit up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees forced to flee their homes because of the war, with Uniting for Ukraine one part of a broader initiative. Here's everything you need to know:

What exactly is Uniting for Ukraine?

It's a humanitarian parole program that streamlines the process of getting Ukrainian refugees temporarily settled in the United States. Parole is a way for some individuals to enter and stay in the U.S. for a limited amount of time, without an immigrant or non-immigrant visa, due to "urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit." Parole is determined on a case-by-case basis. President Biden said last week that Uniting for Ukraine "will complement the existing legal pathways available to Ukrainians, including immigrant visas and refugee processing."

Why did the Biden administration decide to create a parole program?

Administration officials say that while speaking with displaced Ukrainians, many shared that they were seeking a safe place to live amid the war, but did not want to permanently resettle outside of Ukraine. Those who come to the U.S. as part of Uniting for Ukraine can stay for up to two years.

How do you sign up for Uniting for Ukraine?

Ukrainians cannot directly apply themselves. Instead, sponsors who legally live in the United States must fill out an I-134 form; this can be done by an individual or an entity, like a school or nonprofit. The sponsor has to agree to financially support the refugee and ensure they have appropriate housing, and will be vetted to prevent the exploitation of migrants. If the sponsor is approved, the Ukrainian will receive an email from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and must then complete several requirements, including biographic and biometric screening.

Which Ukrainian migrants are eligible for Uniting for Ukraine?

The program is open to Ukrainian citizens, as well as their children, spouses, and common-law partners, who left Ukraine after Feb. 11.

How long will the entire process take?

That's unclear, as a lot of it depends on how many people apply for Uniting for Ukraine. The Department of Homeland Security said it "anticipates that the process will be fairly quick," but can't give out any estimates. Typically, it takes between 18 and 24 months to complete the U.S. refugee process.

What happens once someone is paroled into the United States?

They have 90 days to enter the U.S. and have to arrange their own travel. Before arriving, they must also receive some vaccinations and complete other public health requirements. Once in the U.S., Ukrainian refugees are eligible to apply for employment authorization and encouraged to sign up for a Social Security number. They may also qualify for some government programs, including emergency Medicaid and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) services and benefits. Their parole will be valid for a period of up to two years, and will be automatically terminated if they leave the United States without receiving prior authorization.

How will Uniting for Ukraine affect Ukrainians trying to enter the U.S. at the southern border?

Part of Uniting for Ukraine's goal is to deter Ukrainians from attempting to enter the U.S. at land ports of entry; now that the program is up and running, refugees who do arrive at the border without valid visas or pre-authorization to cross may be denied entry, the Department of Homeland Security said. After Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, many Ukrainians hoping to ultimately settle in the United States first traveled to Mexico, where it's easier to get a visa, and then sought entry to the U.S. at the southern border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said that in March, it processed 3,274 Ukrainians there — an increase of more than 1,100 percent from February, CBS News reports. A senior Homeland Security official told reporters that in total, U.S. immigration officials have processed nearly 15,000 undocumented Ukrainians over the past three months.

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