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Americans can now apply to sponsor Ukrainian refugees under new Biden government Unite for Ukraine program.
Under the program, which launched on Monday, Ukrainian refugees with approved U.S. sponsors can apply to move quickly to the United States, where they will be allowed to live and work for two years under what is called humanitarian parole. US citizens, businesses and non-profit groups can apply to become sponsors.
The program represents the main route the administration hopes to take to fulfill its promise to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees who left their country after the Russian invasion.
On Monday, an informal route that Ukrainians used to enter the United States via the land border with Mexico was officially closed, with the government turning Ukrainians back at legal border crossings and instead returning them to the sponsorship program.
The government does not match refugees with sponsors, although private refugee organizations can match interested sponsors with Ukrainian families in need. Sponsors must complete a form attesting to their ability to financially support sponsored refugees if needed. Administration officials have estimated that the entire process – which begins with submitting this form – should take about a week.
Refugee and Ukrainian American groups greeted the new program with a mixture of gratitude and exasperation. Unlike the traditional refugee admissions program, Uniting for Ukraine will allow Ukrainians with US ties to settle here quickly, but the program offers no long-term certainty for refugees. To stay in the United States for the past two years, a Ukrainian would have to qualify for a visa through family or work, or apply for asylum.
Iryna Mazur, a Ukrainian-American immigration attorney in Philadelphia, said she and other attorneys initially found the program cumbersome and difficult to complete. The program uses existing immigration forms which do not all make sense in the current context. Questions for applicants, she said, include asking Ukrainians to submit information about their assets, including the value of their homes.
“If people are fleeing, how are they supposed to provide the necessary documents? she says.