Welcoming Displaced Ukrainians

The U.S. government has now announced Uniting for Ukraine, an entry program for people fleeing Ukraine who are seeking refuge in the United States.

What is Uniting for Ukraine?

The U.S. government will allow Ukrainians to seek refuge in the United States on a temporary basis known as humanitarian parole, with the help of a sponsor in the United States who will provide initial financial and other support to ensure housing and other basic needs are met, and newcomers have assistance with accessing education or securing employment.

Sponsors can be U.S. citizens, permanent residents or other lawfully present individuals. Non-profits, educational institutions, and employers can also help to sponsor people fleeing Ukraine. Beneficiaries under Uniting for Ukraine include those individuals and families who were residents of Ukraine on February 11, 2022 and who are seeking safety from the war.

Adult beneficiaries will be authorized to work in the United States and may seek employment once welcomed into their new community.

How Do I Apply to Sponsor a Ukrainian through Uniting for Ukraine?

What is a Sponsor in Uniting for Ukraine?

A sponsor refers to the U.S. citizen, permanent resident or other lawfully present individual who steps up to make it possible for an individual or family fleeing the war in Ukraine to seek refuge in the United States. In the USCIS documents, the sponsor is referred to as the “Supporter” to distinguish it from other forms of immigration sponsorship. Each are committed to helping the beneficiary find stability in the United States and will complete an application through the Department of Homeland Security, including security vetting by the federal government.

What is Humanitarian Parole?

Humanitarian parole allows individuals in urgent need of refuge to enter the United States. Under Uniting for Ukraine, beneficiaries can stay in the U.S. legally for up to two years. Individuals who are granted parole will be eligible to apply for work authorization but may not be eligible for certain public benefits or benefits conferred to those that arrive under refugee status due to the temporary nature of humanitarian parole.

What is Required of a Sponsor Under Uniting for Ukraine?

Sponsorship of immigrants is not new, but these tools are being reimagined by the federal government to respond to the needs of people fleeing Ukraine to find safety quickly as well as the willingness of many Americans, including but not limited to Ukrainian Americans, to immediately support those fleeing the war. Fees related to filing for humanitarian parole have been waived under Uniting for Ukraine, meaning sponsors (or beneficiaries) do not have to pay any fees to the federal government.

Each sponsor must be approved by the U.S. government, including the successful completion of security vetting and demonstration of financial resources available to support the newcomer. Sponsors may apply as individuals, as a group, or as a representative of a non-governmental agency. As part of the application process, sponsors will sign that they agree to financially support Ukranians entering under United for Ukraine on their path to stability, as may be necessary.

Sponsors may also be responsible for finding safe and appropriate housing and supporting newcomers to ensure health needs are met, kids are enrolled in school, and that employment is secured, among other factors that will ensure that the sponsored beneficiary finds safety and sanctuary here in the U.S.

While not required, sponsorship is often most successful when groups of individuals –through friends, work, faith, community or other networks – come together to pool their resources to sponsor families and share the joy and responsibilities of helping newly arrived individuals and families thrive in their new communities. There is the hope, and expectation, that groups of individuals can share resources, including financial ones, to support the beneficiary.

Do I Need to Be a Family Member to Serve As a Sponsor?

No. Uniting for Ukraine allows anyone to serve as a named sponsor, including extended family, employers, friends, or others interested in welcoming whose application is approved.

Sponsors will undergo background checks conducted by the Department of Homeland Security as part of the application process, and beneficiaries will also be fully vetted and screened as part of the approval process.

What Kinds of Day-to-Day Support will Arriving Families Require?

Sponsors and sponsor groups typically provide day-to-day support, including making sure the individual or family they are sponsoring has the resources they need to start a new life in the United States – including meeting newcomers at the airport and providing initial transport, finding housing, setting up their new home with furniture, acquiring household supplies, clothing, and groceries, and helping identify a healthcare provider, find employment, and enroll kids in school, including by connecting families to local public health agencies for age-appropriate vaccinations, if necessary.

The Department of Homeland Security also has helpful information on how to apply for necessary documents, such as applications for a Social Security Number and employment authorization document (EAD) and how to comply with any conditions of parole, including those related to health and medical requirements.

What Types of Government Assistance will Ukrainians Under Humanitarian Parole be Eligible For?

Eligibility for government programs depends on a variety of factors, including income level and household composition. As a result, eligibility is often determined through an application process, which sponsors can help newcomers navigate.

However, federal government programs that humanitarian parolees may be eligible for include:

  • Emergency Medicaid, which provides healthcare coverage in the event of a life-threatening event
  • Affordable Care Act health insurance plans
  • Low-cost healthcare services at community healthcare centers and school-based clinics
  • Vaccinations and other health screenings at local public health departments
  • Head Start programs for youth; public school enrollment and associated services, such as free and reduced lunch
  • SNAP benefits for children under 18
  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC) services and benefits
  • Medicaid for pregnant women
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Workforce and training services at American Job Centers (workforce centers)

It is important for sponsors to recognize that each family or individual may have different needs and different eligibility for federal and state programs. That’s another reason to connect with local service organizations that can help guide sponsors through the local ecosystem.

What Happens if I Apply to Be a Sponsor?

The U.S. government is solely responsible for approving sponsor applications. The process includes vital steps to ensure the safety and protection of Ukrainians and sponsor applicants, including background checks and review of your ability to provide initial financial support.

Some applications may move more quickly than others, depending on application-specific information. While your application is processing, we encourage you to connect with national and local organizations who are dedicating resources and expertise to help you in your journey. We also encourage you to learn about the benefits that may be available to individuals granted humanitarian parole in your state, such as health insurance plans through state or federal exchanges.

What Happens After Someone Fleeing the War in Ukraine Applies to Come to the United States through the United for Ukraine Program?

The federal government will review the application of all potential beneficiaries as part of the approval process and conduct necessary background and security checks. Once the application is approved, beneficiaries will receive travel authorization for travel to the United States. Beneficiaries will be responsible for arranging their own flights and other transportation. Additional biometric screening will be conducted at the port of entry to the United States. As each application will be assessed individually, beneficiaries are encouraged to submit an email address or mobile number as part of the application to ensure timely submission of any additional information needed by the federal government to process the application.

What is the Difference Between Individuals Arriving on Humanitarian Parole and Those Who Arrive on Refugee Status?

While both sets of individuals may be fleeing similar circumstances, there are differences in these two populations. Refugees arrive through a long and arduous international process that can take years to complete. Upon arrival to the United States, refugees connect with resettlement agencies to relocate to specific communities where there are local resettlement offices and receive a set of services to help them integrate into their local community. Uniting for Ukraine allows for a quicker path for Ukrainians to find safety in the U.S., but it does not utilize the same process and services that refugees receive through the resettlement process.

What Other Steps Have Been Taken to Welcome Displaced Ukrainians in the United States?

  • Designated Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and opened the program, providing protection to nearly 60,000 Ukrainians already in the United States.
  • Granted Special Student Relief to allow eligible students from Ukraine to remain in the U.S.
  • Began dispersing $1 billion in humanitarian assistance for vulnerable people within Ukraine’s conflict zone.
  • Opened a designated parole program that will help certain Ukrainians with U.S. sponsors come to the U.S. for up to two years (Uniting for Ukraine).
  • The Department of State announced an upcoming expansion of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) that will consider eligible Ukrainians for refugee status under the Lautenberg program.  This effort is being made in conjunction with a commitment from the European embassies and consulates to increase nonimmigrant visa appointments and ensure access to expedited visa appointments for individuals with humanitarian or other extraordinary circumstances.

What’s Next?

While the Uniting for Ukraine program is a positive step to protect those who have been displaced by the war in Ukraine who are seeking refuge in the United States, we do recognize the significant challenges presented by a Humanitarian Parole status. At this time, no additional resources have been made available to support NICE or other resettlement agencies in the US to assist with the sponsorship process under the Uniting for Ukraine program.

NICE will continue providing updates on how to get involved with serving Ukrainians who may be coming to Nashville. If you have further questions, or need assistance filing the necessary paperwork for sponsor a Ukrainian family under the Uniting for Ukraine program, please call 615.315.9681 to schedule an appointment with our immigration department.