On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine, a country of 43.7 million people. The United States and its allies have condemned the invasion, and are imposing trade and financial sanctions on Russia and enhancing their own military deterrence posture, while also providing aid to Ukraine. More than 4 million people have fled as refugees to neighboring countries, and the United States pledged humanitarian assistance in response to the crisis. The United States maintains deep and multifaceted relations with Ukraine, and the country is a leading recipient of U.S. foreign and military aid. As of 2019, more than 350,000 foreign-born individuals from Ukraine resided in the United States. Some have U.S. citizenship and others have lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. Still others have temporary statuses (such as students, tourists, and temporary workers) and could see their authorized periods of admission end before it is safe to return; and some have no lawful immigration status. Those with temporary or no legal status could benefit from certain temporary immigration relief options.
On March 3, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the designation of Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months. DHS cited the armed conflict and extraordinary conditions in Ukraine resulting from Russia’s attack on that country. The DHS Secretary, after consultation with other U.S. government agencies, may designate a country for TPS if (1) there is an armed conflict preventing the safe return of nationals from that country; (2) there has been an environmental disaster in the country that substantially disrupts living conditions; or (3) there are “extraordinary and temporary conditions” that prevent foreign nationals from safely returning. The DHS Secretary may designate the country for periods of 6 to 18 months and may extend these periods if the country continues to meet the conditions for designation. To qualify for TPS, an applicant from a designated country must meet certain criteria, including physical presence in the United States since the effective date of the country’s TPS designation, continuous residence in the United States since a date specified by the DHS Secretary, and admissibility to the United
A country may be designated for TPS when conditions in the country fall into one or more of the three statutory bases for designation: ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or extraordinary and temporary conditions. This designation is based on both ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions in Ukraine that prevent Ukrainian nationals, and those of no nationality who last habitually resided in Ukraine, from returning to Ukraine safely. These conditions result from the full-scale Russian military invasion into Ukraine, which marks the largest conventional military action in Europe since World War II. This invasion has caused a humanitarian crisis with significant numbers of individuals fleeing and damage to civilian infrastructure that has left many without electricity or water or access to food, basic supplies, shelter, and emergency medical services.
How Does Employment Authorization Document Effect TPS?
Individuals eligible for TPS under this designation must have continuously resided in the United States since March 1, 2022. Individuals who attempt to travel to the United States after March 1, 2022 will not be eligible for TPS. Ukraine’s 18-month designation will go into effect on the publication date of the forthcoming Federal Register notice. The Federal Register notice will provide instructions for applying for TPS and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). TPS applicants must meet all eligibility requirements and undergo security and background checks.
Biden Administration TPS Announcements
On April 21, 2022, President Biden announced Uniting for Ukraine, a new streamlined process to provide Ukrainian citizens who have fled Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression opportunities to come to the United States. This represents a key step toward fulfilling the President’s commitment to welcome Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Other Potential Immigration Relief Options Regardless of whether they are eligible for TPS, Ukrainians may qualify for existing pathways to enter or remain in the United States. Some forms of temporary relief are discussed below. Special Student Relief Most international students enter the United States on F-1 visas, which allow for temporary admission to pursue full-time academic study. According to DHS, there are currently 2,616 F-1 students from Ukraine in the United States. Generally, F-1 students must maintain a full course of study and may only work under limited circumstances. In some situations, however, the DHS Secretary may suspend certain regulatory requirements related to full-time study and employment for students from countries experiencing conflict, natural disaster, or other emergent circumstances. This suspension is called special student relief (SSR).
Special Student Relief
On April 19, 2022, DHS added Ukraine to the list of countries for which SSR is available. In addition to SSR, individual F-1 students may apply for permission to work off-campus if they face severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances. Extensions and Changes of Status Some Ukrainians who are in the United States in nonimmigrant (i.e., temporary) statuses may wish to extend their stay past the current period of authorized admission. Eligible individuals can apply to DHS for an extension or change of status. DHS has discretion to excuse delayed applications when the delay is due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the applicant’s control.