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  5. US and Canada options for Ukrainians and Other Ways to Help

US and Canada options for Ukrainians and Other Ways to Help

The war in Ukraine is troubling to all of us. Many PCA churches and individual believers have strong ties to Ukraine, and so are particularly motivated to try to find ways (in addition to our earnest prayers) to help fleeing Ukrainians as well as those who have not been able to leave.

Both the US and Canadian governments took actions on Ukraine in Spring 2022.

What did the US announce?

On Thursday, March 24th, President Biden announced that the US would look at all legal means to bring up to 100,000 Ukrainians to the US, primarily immediate family members of US citizens or permanent residents, but will also consider granting Humanitarian Parole to some, as well as continuing to use the years-long refugee process (see below,) to admit to the US some Ukrainians wanting to leave Europe.

Helpful Summary: https://tinyurl.com/USoptionsforUkrainiansAp22

On Tuesday, April 19th, the US government released a Federal Register announcement updating its announced intent to allow Ukrainians who were present in the US as of April 11, 2022 (updated from March 1, 2022) to apply for Temporary Protected Status, which, if approved, will allow them to remain in the US and apply to work here for a period of 18 months (renewable after that, at the State Department’s discretion.)

Note that unless the parameters of TPS for Ukrainians are further changed, no Ukrainian arriving in the US after April 11, 2022 will be eligible for this status. For more information: https://tinyurl.com/TPSUkraine TPS is a short-term solution for those Ukrainians who were already in the US by April 11, 2022. It is not a status that leads to a green card or US citizenship, nor are TPS recipients eligible for federal safety net benefits or refugee serives..

The Federal Register for April 27, 2022 outlines the new Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) process, first announced by the President days earlier: “U.S.-based individuals who agree to provide financial support to Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members (US supporters) will be able to initiate a process that will ultimately allow those Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members (Ukrainian beneficiaries) to seek advance authorization to travel to the United States for the purpose of seeking parole into the United States at a U.S. port of entry… The determination as to whether to parole a particular noncitizen who presents such authorization remains a case-by-case, discretionary determination made upon arrival at the port of entry.” (Note that this process must be initiated by the US supporter. It is not a program for which a Ukrainian can apply on their own.)

What does the Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) program offer Ukrainians?

Those Ukrainians admitted to the US under U4U will be granted Humanitarian Parole: 2 years of safety in the US, protection against deportation for the duration of the parole if they continue to meet its requirements, and the ability to apply for work authorization for the duration of the parole period.

What are the limitations for the U4U program?

Without Congressional action, those admitted through U4U will not be eligible for Medical Assistance or other government safety benefits, nor for refugee-specific benefits. Humanitarian Parole through U4U does not lead to a green card, permanent residence or citizenship. However, Ukrainians admitted with Humanitarian Parole who wish to remain permanently in the US can, within the first year in the US, file applications for asylum (unfortunately, a complex and backlogged process with no guaranteed positive outcome.)

How can we identify a Ukrainian individual or family to assist through the Uniting for Ukraine program?

This is the real challenge, since these individuals and families are not being admitted through refugee resettlement agencies, and there is no centralized listing or vetting process.

  • If your church has a relationship with current or former missionaries to Ukraine, ask them if they know of Ukrainians who are wanting to come to the US for safety.
  • Are there Ukrainian churches in your area? You may want to get in touch with them to find out whether they are sponsoring individuals or families, and if help is needed.
  • At least one of the national refugee resettlement agencies appears to be attempting informal matches between those US citizens wanting to bring their Ukrainian family members to the US for Humanitarian Parole but falling short of the required income threshold, and potential congregational co-sponsors: https://www.hias.org/blog/us-uniting-ukraine-program-may-help-100k-concerns-remain
  • Welcome.US is encouraging potential sponsors to register with them in readiness for when it will be possible to do matches with those Ukrainians wanting to come who do not already have US sponsors: https://ukraine.welcome.us/

Additional information about U4U: https://immigrationforum.org/article/explainer-uniting-for-ukraine/  and https://www.dhs.gov/ukraine

What has Canada announced?

Canada – which has a much more flexible and timely immigration program than the US – announced on March 3rd a new Ukraine-Canada Emergency Travel Authorization program to admit to Canada an unlimited number of Ukrainians, who will be granted work authorization as they arrive.  Unlike the US, Canada is providing generous eligibility for medical benefits and resettlement assistance to those Ukrainians admitted under this program.

More details are available on this website: Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel – Canada.ca

Recently posted info from the province of Ontario with some information valid throughout Canada: https://tinyurl.com/UkrainiansOntario2022

NOTE: Ukrainians hoping to enter either Canada or the US will still need to obtain visas and pay their own transportation cost, or find those willing to pay it for them.

What about airlifting Ukrainians to the US as we did Afghans?

The US government has made it clear that the Afghan airlift was a rare one-time-only operation, at the moment the US pulled out of that country, to try to bring to safety in the US as many as possible of the Afghans who had risked their lives to protect and assist US troops and aid projects during the period of the US presence in Afghanistan.  

Many European countries are acting to provide welcome and long-term solutions for Ukrainians, and we can pray and advocate that the US will continue to contribute generously toward those relief efforts.

What about allowing Ukrainians to enter the US as refugees?

  • On March 11th, the President announced that the US should welcome Ukrainian refugees with open arms, should they want to leave Europe.
  • On March 25th he announced that the US would use “the full range of legal pathways, including the US Refugee Admissions process” to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians to the US. This has been widely misinterpreted as meaning that the US will admit 100,000 Ukrainians as refugees.
  • The US refugee resettlement program as created in 1980 and administered abroad is a complex process that takes years, not months. Those seeking refugee status must be interviewed by staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and then they must go through extensive vetting by multiple US government agencies. This is something the President alone cannot change. Fewer than one percent of all refugees in the world are approved for US resettlement.
  • The US refugee program generally does not consider for resettlement in the US any individual or family who would be welcomed to remain in the neighboring country to which they have fled, or through which they have transited. Many who have fled to Poland or Moldova or other nations that may offer long-term options for them to remain would not be eligible for the US refugee program under existing policy guidelines, unless waived.
  • Although the ceiling for refugee admissions in the US for FY 2022 has been raised to 125,000 from the less than 12,000 that were admitted in FY 2021, there are regional caps as well, and the cap for Europe (10,000) has already been nearly met.
  • Because local refugee resettlement agencies are paid by the US Dept of State on a per-refugee REIMBURSEMENT basis a year after they have served each refugee, and because the previous administration had cut refugee arrival caps drastically, local refugee agencies in the US were at their weakest they have ever been since the refugee program was created in 1980, at the very time that more than 74,000 Afghan SIVs and Humanitarian Parolees were admitted to the US. The local agencies have been asked to provide services to as many as five times as many families as they would normally serve in a few months, with as little as 25% of their 2016 staffing levels. They are totally overwhelmed. (Many churches have stepped up to help; please contact me if you would like to discuss this.) Capacity of the resettlement agencies to receive any new refugee population is severely curtailed, unless the government provides substantial funds for increased staffing and infrastructure costs for these agencies

But I heard there are already some Ukrainian refugees in the US!

  • Yes, for several decades before the current conflict, a few hundred to a thousand Ukrainians a year have been granted refugee status in the US – after undergoing interviews abroad and vettings that have taken from 18 months to 3 or more years. Those arriving in the US in 2021-22 with refugee status started the interview and vetting process several years ago, before the most recent conflict.  If you would like to help them, you can find the closest refugee resettlement office in your state by clicking on your state on this map: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/orr/map/find-resources-and-contacts-your-state
  • Thousands of Ukrainians have recently flown to Mexico City and made their way north across the US southern border, requesting asylum in the US.  Those that arrived before April 11, 2022 can apply for Temporary Protected Status for 18 months, but for the possibility of more permanent status they must apply for asylum, wait many months or years after application for an interview date, and then there are no guarantees of a positive decision. To win an asylum case, one needs to show not just that there is war and serious danger in their homeland, but that they would be personally targeted because of their religion, their race, their nationality, their political opinion or their membership in a particular group. Only about 30% of asylum cases are decided favorably, although that increases somewhat on appeal.
  • On March 11th, the US Customs and Border Patrol released a memo to US southern border officials, permitting them to grant Ukrainians case by case exemptions from Title 42 exclusion (imposed due to COVID) when they present themselves at the US border, and to admit them with Humanitarian Parole for up to one year: https://tinyurl.com/UKRHPoption  However, when the new Uniting for Ukraine program was announced in April, the government stated that it will no longer be granting Humanitarian Parole to Ukrainians who present at the US/Mexico border. (However, like persons fleeing targeted danger from any country, they can ask to apply for asylum at the border.) If not turned away under Title 42 COVID protocols, they are likely to be detained by Customs and Border Protection for several days before release with a court date.

What about other options for Ukrainians to come here, such as Student Visas, Visitor Visas, etc.?

  • When processing any application for a NON-immigrant visa, the US State Department evaluates  whether the individual’s intent is to return to their country at the end of the visa period. They require documentary proof such as unabandoned residences the applicant owns, employment from which they have taken temporary leave, etc.  If they suspect that the individual’s intent is to remain in the US, the applicant will be considered an “intending immigrant” and denied a non-immigrant visa. However, consular officials are allowed some discretion.
  • If someone IS approved for a non-immigrant visa, they will still need to pay for their own visa, any vaccination or other medical requirements, and transportation to the US.
  • Persons on non-immigrant visas such as visitor’s visas are not permitted to work in the US, nor are they eligible for safety net benefits such as Medical Assistance or Food Stamps/SNAP
  • If a Ukrainian already has or is able to obtain a visa to come to the US temporarily, and it is their hope to remain in the US, they will need to apply for asylum in the US within one year of arrival. To find reliable immigration services, use the “find an attorney’ function on the website of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association: https://ailalawyer.com/  or, for more affordable options: https://www.justice.gov/eoir/recognized-organizations-and-accredited-representatives-roster-state-and-city Again, asylum is a complex and backlogged process with no guarantee of positive outcome.

What can we do?

  • ADVOCATE with the White House and our Senators and Congresspersons for:
  • Expediting the processing of several thousand members of religious minority groups, including evangelical Christians and Jews, who have family in the United States and have applied to come here under what is known as the Lautenberg program for persecuted religious minorities: https://tinyurl.com/HIAS-Lautenberg
    • Providing robust food and medical aid to both those Ukrainians who have fled to neighboring countries and those still in-country
    • Providing substantial aid to those European Union countries that are welcoming Ukrainians and offering them long-term resettlement
    • US Citizenship and Immigration Service to give timely processing priority to family reunification petitions for immediate relatives (spouse, minor child, parent) of US citizens and legal permanent residents from countries such as Ukraine where there is imminent danger (Due to country quotas and relationship category quotas each year, the backlogs for awarding visas to those persons for whom a petition is already approved are typically years, or even decades.)
  • HAVE HOUSING TO OFFER?
    • MTW missionaries in Poland have started a database of housing offers in Europe and North America.  If you own or lease a property in Europe that you would like to make available to a Ukrainian family, you can fill out this form which the missionaries will share with those seeking a place to stay in that area:

https://forms.gle/FwY7SxtnneFks9EY9

You can also indicate housing you would be willing to make available in the US, although many who choose to come to the US may be coming to join family members or close friends already here.

This is a rapidly-changing situation, much as the Afghan arrivals situation has been. If you have questions about either, please email phatch@pcanet.org  Thank you for all that you are doing.

For more information, please see 

https://missionexus.org/ukraine

To learn more and give to aid Ukrainian Christians and churches through Mission to the World:

https://mtw.org/ukraine-crisis

Other options for giving to Ukrainian relief efforts, evaluated:

https://ministrywatch.com/advice-to-those-wanting-to-give-to-ukrainian-relief

For “Beyond Disaster” trauma healing material in Ukrainian from the Trauma Healing Institute:

https://beyonddisaster.bible   (scroll down on that webpage to free Ukrainian pdf)

Know of additional resources that might be helpful in this Ukrainian crisis?  Please let us know!

            Pat Hatch

            Refugee and Immigrant Ministry Director

            Presbyterian Church in America

            Mission to North America

            phatch@pcanet.org      (443) 604-5394

            Website: https://pcamna.org/ministry/refugee-and-immigrant-ministry/

Updated on May 18, 2022

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