Our hearts go out to the people of Ukraine in this difficult time in world events. It may be news to many of us, but it’s real life to those affected and whose loved ones are impacted by the aggression. I personally have friends and many clients who are from Ukraine and our thoughts and prayers are with them and their friends and families. Situations like this are hugely impactful on people’s lives and cause disruption, fear and loss of all kinds. As public utilities are targeted and fail, people lose access to homes, clean water, communication and other basic necessities of life contributing to the difficulties of the circumstances.
While we can’t address the challenges of world events such as these, sometimes we can find US immigration options to help alleviate some of the struggles for people. In this article, I will explain three approaches that could be available to the people of Ukraine to access options for immigration status in the US.
Temporary Protected Status
Recently, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced the designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Ukrainian nationals already present in the US for a period of 18 months. Regardless of current US immigration status, whether legally or illegally in the US, Ukrainian nationals who were in the US on March 1, 2022, are eligible to apply.
The benefits of TPS include protection from deportation during the TPS period, employment authorization, access to a travel document, and issuance of a social security number. Again, your current immigration status is not relevant, but presence in the US on March 1, 2022, is required. If you meet these basic requirements, we strongly encourage you to file for TPS.
Ukrainian nationals already in the US should consider whether they might qualify for Political Asylum. To qualify, an applicant must be able to show the following:
- That they have been and/or will be the specific target of persecution or torture if they went back to Ukraine;
- That they can identify the specific person or group of people who would do that to them;
- That the motivation for the persecution is a protected ground, such as political opinion, religious beliefs, race, national origin, or membership in a particular social group;
- That the government is unable or unwilling to control the potential persecutors or is the government themselves;
- and finally, how they know all of these things to be true.
The application is required to be filed within one year of entry into the US. However, there are exceptions to that rule such as changed country conditions that create a fear of persecution now when there was not one before and maintenance of legal immigration status.
For those who have filed the application more than one year after entry who do not qualify for an exception, a benefit that is less than Asylum, such as Withholding of Removal or relief under the Convention Against Torture may be available. These do not lead to permanent residence like Asylum does but do allow for indefinite protection from deportation and work authorization. Having or applying for TPS does not conflict with an application for Political Asylum.
Another potential option for Ukrainian nationals looking for an opportunity to come to the US and flee the conflict in their country might be humanitarian parole. When the US removed its presence in Afghanistan in 2021, the crisis that followed was devastating. The US government decided to make Humanitarian Parole specifically available to Afghani nationals at that time.
No such designation has been made for Ukraine at this time. However, the option still exists in limited circumstances. Because the European Union’s response to the crisis has been to welcome Ukrainians into their countries and to provide protection and immigration and other benefits, the urgency is not as great as it was in the Afghani situation.
Because of the EU’s response, we believe that only in rare circumstances would an application for Humanitarian Parole be granted for Ukrainians. If there are very strong family ties to the US, for example, such that being in the US would provide a support structure not available by resettlement in the EU, it is possible the US immigration authorities would grant a humanitarian parole request. Again, this is not a guaranteed approach, but one that might work in limited circumstances.
Extension or change of status.
If a Ukrainian national is here in the US in legal status, such as F-1 student, H-1B professional worker or B-2 visitor, it is likely under the circumstances that USCIS would be willing to grant a change or extension of status so the person doesn’t have to return to Ukraine.
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Our strong recommendation is that anyone in the US who is from Ukraine at the very least files for Temporary Protected Status. Also, consider the other options listed here to see if any might apply. If you would like help assessing any of these options, feel free to reach out to us. We will do our best to help.
About Davis & Associates:
Davis & Associates is the immigration law firm of choice in Houston & North Texas including Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, Frisco, McKinney and surrounding areas. Their attorneys provide expert legal counsel for all aspects of immigration law, including deportation defense, writs of habeas corpus and mandamus, family-sponsored immigration, employment-sponsored immigration, investment immigration, employer compliance, temporary visas for work and college, permanent residence, naturalization, consular visa processing, waivers, and appeals. Attorney Garry L. Davis is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
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