Frequently Asked Questions: U.S. Immigration Options for Ukrainians
JFCS’ Legal Services is providing immigration services to local families with relatives in Ukraine or recent arrivals from Ukraine. Read below for answers to our most frequently asked questions regarding legal options and immigration status.
Based on present information made available on 03/21/2023 by the Department of Homeland Security, subject to change.
What is the Uniting for Ukraine Program, and how can my loved ones and I apply?
The Uniting for Ukraine process allows for Ukrainians who are abroad to be sponsored for authorized travel to the U.S. in order to be granted humanitarian parole. This is accomplished using a USCIS online portal and the wait time has historically been shorter than the normal process of applying for humanitarian parole. Once paroled into the U.S., Uniting for Ukraine beneficiaries will be given 2 years of temporary parole status to remain in the U.S., the ability to work immediately upon arriving to the US, no fee for applying for an employment authorization document (EAD) and they may be eligible for many mainstream benefits, including medical insurance, food assistance, and cash aid.
This process was officially launched on 04/25/2022, and there is currently no end date to the program. Changes to the program have already occurred since its launch, so please go to www.dhs.gov/ukraine for the most updated information.
Read more about eligibility and process for Uniting for Ukraine here >
I just arrived in the U.S. from Ukraine, can I apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?
In order to be eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) as a Ukrainian national, you must have continuously resided in the U.S. since April 11, 2022. Individuals who attempt to travel to the U.S. after April 11, 2022 will not be eligible for TPS.
I arrived in the U.S. from Ukraine before April 11, 2022. What are the benefits of applying for TPS?
TPS recipients can remain lawfully in the U.S. so long as their TPS is valid. They can also apply for work authorization to work legally in the U.S. There is a possibility of being granted travel authorization while on TPS, but it is subject to the discretion of the government. More information about TPS can be found on USCIS’ website.
If I apply for TPS, can I leave the U.S. and come back?
Once granted TPS, if you leave the U.S. without travel authorization, you may automatically lose TPS status and will not be permitted to re-enter the U.S. If you wish to apply for travel authorization, you can request advance parole when filing for TPS status. However, regardless of whether you have been authorized to travel, if you have overstayed a visa or stayed in the U.S. without authorization, you should consult an attorney before leaving the U.S.
If I’m granted TPS, can I eventually apply for a green card?
TPS alone does not give a direct path to applying for lawful permanent residence (green card). However, having TPS does not prevent you from applying for other immigration benefits or protections that you might be eligible for.
I’m currently in the U.S. on a tourist visa (B-2). How long can I stay in the U.S.?
When entering the U.S. on a tourist visa (B-1 or B-2), CBP officers will stamp your passport with a date indicating how long you can remain in the U.S. using this visa. Generally this is for 6 months (180 days) from the date of your entry. You can also request your I-94 record to see an electronic record of your last entry and how long you are able to stay. If you wish to extend your stay past the amount of time granted, you will need to file an extension of status application before your stay expires.
My loved ones are currently in Ukraine and I want to know how I can get them to the U.S. Are there options other than Uniting for Ukraine?
There are a number of different immigration options that may be available to loved ones abroad. Immigrant visas can allow immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to come to the U.S. to live permanently. Some fleeing persecution in their home countries may be able to apply to travel to the U.S. as refugees. Others may be able to travel to the U.S. temporarily on tourist visas, student visas, work visas, or other nonimmigrant visas. Citizens of certain countries may be able to travel temporarily to the US without a visa through the Visa Waiver Program. To find what options may be available to your loved ones, please consult an attorney.
What about asylum? Can I apply for asylum in the U.S. if I’m from Ukraine?
Individuals who are afraid to return to their home countries due to fear of persecution based on race, religion, national origin, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion may apply for asylum. In order to claim asylum, you must typically be either at a U.S. border, U.S. airport, or inside the U.S. In general, applications for asylum must be made within 1 year (365 days) of an applicant’s last entry to the U.S. Not all individuals affected by the war in Ukraine will be eligible for asylum. Consult with an attorney to see if applying for asylum is a good option for you.
If I’m here in the U.S. temporarily, will I have access to public benefits like health insurance?
Federal benefits for health insurance vary depending on your immigration status. Presently, all Ukrainian parolees are eligible for mainstream public benefits like Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California), food assistance, and cash aid. In contrast, very few benefits are available for those here on tourist visas or other non-immigrant visas. However, certain states have different rules governing who are eligible for their benefits. For example, California residents may be able qualify for emergency or pregnancy-related Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status (for adults age 50 and older and children under 26, full scope Medi-Cal may be available). Depending on your immigration status, you may also be able to purchase private insurance through the Healthcare.gov marketplace. If you are interested in learning more about Medi-Cal eligibility, please contact your local county office for more information.
Where can I find legal assistance for myself or a family member?
JFCS’ Legal Services assists with immigrant visa petitions, expedite requests, and and Uniting for Ukraine applications for those with family members overseas. Our trained staff can also assess the available immigration options for those Ukrainians who are already in the U.S., including TPS, extension/adjustment of status, or asylum. For more information, complete our Legal Consultation Request Form.
The information contained in this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Transmission and/or receipt of these materials does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the you, the reader, and/or Jewish Family and Children’s Services. Readers of this information should not act upon any information contained on this website without seeking professional counsel.