“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.”
“Uniting for Ukraine builds on the robust humanitarian assistance the U.S. government is providing as we complement the generosity of countries throughout Europe that are hosting millions of Ukrainian citizens and others who have been displaced.”
To that end, on or about April 21, 2022, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USC&IS) “announced a key step toward fulfilling President Biden’s commitment to welcome Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion. Uniting for Ukraine provides a pathway for Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members who are outside the United States to come to the United States and stay temporarily in a 2 year period of parole. Ukrainians participating in Uniting for Ukraine must have a supporter in the United States who agrees to provide them with financial support for the duration of their stay in the United States.”
“The first step in the Uniting for Ukraine process is for the U.S.-based supporter to file a Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support, with USCIS. The U.S. government will then vet the supporter to ensure that they are able to financially support the individual whom they agree to support.”
The qualifications for such a supporter is “An individual who holds lawful status in the United States or is a parolee or beneficiary of deferred action or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) who has passed security and background vetting and demonstrated sufficient financial resources to receive, maintain, and supports the individuals whom they commit to support for the duration of their stay in the United States.”
Beneficiaries of such support are those who meet the following requirements:
- “Resided in Ukraine immediately prior to the Russian invasion (until February 11, 2022) and were displaced as a result of the invasion;”
- “Are a Ukrainian citizen and possess a valid Ukrainian passport (or are a child included on a parent’s passport), or are a non-Ukrainian immediate family member of a Ukrainian citizen who is applying through Uniting for Ukraine;”
- “Have a supporter who filed a Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support, on their behalf that has been confirmed as sufficient by USCIS;”
- “Complete vaccinations and other public health requirements,” and;
- “Clear biometric and biographic screening and vetting security checks.”
- “Immediate family members” in this process include: “the spouse or common-law partner of a Ukrainian citizen; and their unmarried children under the age of 21. NOTE: If a child is under 18, they must be traveling with a parent or legal guardian in order to use this process.”
Advocates for This Program
Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, and his wife are sponsors of three Ukrainians (a husband and wife and their 2-year old daughter) , who arrived in the U.S. less than five weeks after the U.S. government had approved the Somins’ supporter papers. Somin and his wife learned of this new U.S. government program through Welcome Connect, a website that matches potential U.S.sponsors with Ukrainian refugees. As a result, Somin has become a strong advocate for this program.
He says that since April of 2022, at least 94,000 Ukrainians have entered the U.S. under this program. In contrast, the regular U.S. program for admission of refugees is “slow and burdensome” and admitted only 25,400 for all of fiscal 2022.
Nevertheless, Somin sees “two major shortcomings:”
- “first, the residency and work permits last only two years. Experience shows that many refugees need permanent homes, not just temporary ones. Permanence also enables them to make greater economic and social contributions to our society.”
- Second, the program is largely the result of executive discretion. If political winds shift and President Biden (or a successor) decides to terminate it, participants could be subject to deportation. Congress should pass legislation to permanently fix these flaws.”
- Third, this program could be improved by further simplifying the paperwork. . . . Refugee-assistance charities should consider providing linguistic assistance to potential sponsors who don’t speak Russian or Ukrainian; they could potentially recruit volunteer interpreters from immigrant communities in the [U.S.]”
This U.S. program for Ukrainians is praiseworthy, but ignores several caveats.
First, the Ukrainians are not “refugees,” as defined in international and U.S. law: individuals who have been determined by government agencies to meet the legal requirements for such status: “any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”(Emphasis added). 
U.N. organizations and the U.S. government have established legal procedures for determining whether an individual has proven that he or she meets these legal requirements for such status as a basis for asylum or other status. As a result, it takes longer to do that than it does for the simplified process for the Ukrainians. But now it takes much longer than it should due to huge demands for such relief and inadequate resources.
Second, the U.S.established a special program for Afghans who have fled their country and who come to the U.S. as evacuees (not refugees) with humanitarian parole or special immigrant visas of limited duration. This is similar to the new program for Ukrainians, and a bill (Afghan Adjustment Act) has been proposed to meet the special legal problems associated with this status. But as been discussed in this blog, that Afghan proposal failed to pass in the last Congress.
 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, President Biden to Announce Uniting with Ukraine, a New Streamlined Process to Welcome Ukrainians Fleeing Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine (April 21, 2022); U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Uniting for Ukraine (April 21, 2022); U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services [USC&IS], Uniting for Ukraine (April 21, 2022).
 Somin, We sponsored refugees under a new Biden program. The results were astonishing, Wash. Post (Jan. 3, 2023); Somin & El-Chidiac, Americans should be able to sponsor refugees tho can stay permanently, Wash. Post (July 18, 2022).
 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 189 U.N.T.S. 137; 8 U.S.C. sec. 1101(a)(42);
 E.g., Congress Fails To Adopt Important Immigration Legislation, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec. 2022).