March 24

How Are Ukrainian Citizens Seeking Refuge

Neighboring countries

How are neighboring countries helping? Since 2022, more than 2.3 million Ukrainians have sought refuge, primarily in bordering countries Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Poland, which make up 80 percent of Ukrainian refugees. A new corridor has also been made accessible by the Ukrainian government for humanitarian protection.

Ally countries

How are ally countries helping? The EU is offering a three-year residency permit to Ukrainian refugees. Many NATO countries are also opening immigration for Ukrainian refugees. Countries with the best path for citizenship are the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Canada. Canada currently has no cap on the number of immigrants seeking refuge.

United States

How is the United States helping? The Biden administration offered tens of thousands of Ukrainians temporary humanitarian protection in the US due to the ongoing crisis. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that over 75,000 Ukrainians are eligible to apply for Temporary Protected Status. This status will allow many Ukrainian nationals, including those without lawful immigration status, to remain and work in the United States for at least 18 months.

The TPS is designed for foreigners from countries plagued by war, natural calamities, or other crises. TPS does not grant beneficiaries permanent U.S. status. It also only applies to people already in the U.S., not future arrivals from Ukraine, which has seen more than 1 million of its citizens flee to neighboring countries. Recently, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) suspended deportations to Ukraine, Russia, and seven other European countries.

ICE has stated that it will focus on deporting criminals and people who have violated immigration law instead of refugees. This was a welcoming change to the Obama-era policy which resulted in the deportation of many Ukrainians with Temporary Protected Status.

While the conditions in Ukraine are still not ideal, many people have chosen to return due to the lack of opportunities in neighboring countries. It is estimated that only 10 percent of Ukrainian refugees will choose to stay in their host country permanently. The majority of Ukrainian refugees are women and children, which puts an increased strain on resources in host countries.

Many organizations are working hard to provide necessary assistance to refugees, but there is still much work. More funding and volunteers are needed to help support those seeking refuge.

Asylum Seekers

What about those who seek asylum in the U.S.? Every year people come to the United States seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a particular social group
  • Political opinion

There are two ways to apply for asylum:

  1. Obtain an affirmative asylum application on Form I-589. It must be filed within one year of entry into the U.S. You must not have sought refuge or “settled” in any other country before your arrival.
  2. An asylum application can be adjudicated in our immigration courts through the Executive Office for Immigration Review, a sub-agency of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) whose chief function is to conduct removal proceedings in immigration courts and adjudicate appeals arising from the proceedings. Some applicants present themselves at our border, where a CBP or ICE officer will interview them about whether they are being persecuted for warranting an asylum application. This process is part of the removal process, and the burden is on the applicant to prove their case.

There are exceptions to the one-year filing deadline, based on “changed circumstances” in the home country or “extraordinary circumstances” beyond the applicant’s control. Unaccompanied minors fall in this category. 8 CFR 208.4.

During your pending asylum application, you may receive permission to work while having an Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766/EAD). You may apply for an EAD after one year of a pending asylum application.

Certain criminal offenses or convictions will make you ineligible for an EAD. You will be ineligible for an EAD based on your pending asylum application if:

  • You have been convicted, at any time, of an aggravated felony, as defined under 8 CFR 1101(a)(43), in the U.S. or abroad;
  • You have been convicted, on or after August 25, 2020, of a severe crime; or
  • There are weighty reasons to believe that you committed a serious non-political crime outside the U.S. on or after August 25, 2020.
  • In an affirmative application, you will be interviewed by an Asylum Officer in person. In Immigration Court, you will have to present your case in front of an Immigration Judge. All evidence to support your case will be thoroughly reviewed.
  • You may apply for your green card (lawful permanent residence one year after your asylum is granted. There is no fee for asylum applications to file.

No airlines currently allow refugees on a plane to the U.S. without a visa. Some refugees have taken a risky approach by traveling to Canada or Mexico, then presenting themselves to U.S. officials at the border requesting asylum. However, refugees could be detained and still have to prove a credible case for asylum.

Ukrainian immigrants living in the U.S.

What about Ukrainian immigrants who are living in the U.S.? USCIS has stated that they are offering immigration services that may help people affected by extreme situations, including the invasion of Ukraine. The following measures may be available on a case-by-case basis upon request:

  • Changing a nonimmigrant status or extending a nonimmigrant stay for an individual in the United States. If you fail to apply for the extension or change before the expiration of your authorized period of admission;
  • Re-parole of individuals previously granted parole by USCIS;
  • Expedited processing of advance parole requests;
  • Expedited adjudication of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
  • Expedited adjudication of petitions or applications, including employment authorization applications, when appropriate;
  • Consideration of fee waiver requests due to an inability to pay;
  • Flexibility for those who received a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny but were unable to submit evidence or otherwise respond on time;
  • Flexibility if you were unable to appear for a scheduled interview with USCIS;
  • Expedited replacement of lost or damaged immigration or travel documents issued by USCIS, such as a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card), Employment Authorization Document, or Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record; and
  • Rescheduling of biometric service appointments.

This is a brief overview of how Ukrainian citizens are seeking refuge.

About the author: Jon Velie has practiced Immigration law since 1993. He is CEO of OnlineVisas

Jon is an Amazon number one best-selling author of H-1B Visa: Application & Approval, is regularly covered by major media and has won a number of international awards. Jon was also pivotal in the Cherokee Freedmen Supreme Court case.

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