Pittsburgh is one of the many places Ukrainians are coming to escape the ongoing war. While provisions have been made for them to temporarily live and work in the U.S., many still may have questions about their legal status and what services and resources are available.
Country of origin impacts the benefits and resources available for Humanitarian Parolees. The following is specific to Ukrainian parolees and is current as of September, 2023.
1) What status do Ukrainians coming from the war have when they get to the U.S.? Are they refugees
Ukrainians are primarily applying for humanitarian parolee status as part of the United for Ukraine Program, to reside in the United States temporarily for two years. This status allows them to live and work in the U.S. while the situation at home is uncertain.
Ukrainians are not arriving as refugees. In most cases, refugee status is a legal classification for people who fear persecution if returned to their home country. With a humanitarian parolee status, the expectation (and hope) from the U.S. government is that in the next two years, Ukrainians will be able to safely return home.
2) What is humanitarian parolee and how does someone apply?
Uniting for Ukraine humanitarian parolees must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen.
The sponsor in the U.S. must file Form I-134a on behalf of the beneficiary and include the beneficiary’s contact information. Once the filing has been reviewed and approved by USCIS, the beneficiary will receive information on how to proceed. The sponsor legally agrees to provide financial support for the duration of an individual or family’s parolee period by filling out form I-134A, found here.
Once the forms have been submitted and accepted, a humanitarian parolee has permission to enter and remain in the U.S. for a certain period of time. In this case, Ukrainians have been given up to two years as part of the Uniting for Ukraine Program to live and work in the U.S. To apply for humanitarian parolee status, click here.
There are a few qualifications to apply:
- Must have been a resident in Ukraine as of February 11, 2022 and been displaced due to the invasion
- Must be a Ukrainian citizen with a Ukrainian passport or an immediate relative of a Ukrainian citizen (ie – spouse or unmarried child under 21) who is part of the Uniting for Ukraine program
- Must have a sponsor in the United States
- Must complete vaccinations and other public health requirements
- Must pass biometric and biographic screening and vetting security checks
- Humanitarian parolees are provided legal status to live in the U.S. but do not have any immigration status. This means that they are not on any pathway to citizenship and are not “entitled” to a green card or any other form of immigration status.
3) What happens when the two parolee years are over?
Currently, the humanitarian parolee period is set for up to two years. In the event that the crisis continues beyond two years, this FAQ will be updated with additional information.
If a family or individual would like to remain in the US, they need to apply for permanent residency through traditional legal pathways.
It is highly recommended they speak with an immigration attorney as early as possible to explore options. Our attorneys at JFCS Immigration Legal Services are available to answer questions, provide advice and make referrals for immigration legal services. Contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out our online referral form.
4) What are the responsibilities of the sponsors?
As part of the application process to become a sponsor, the sponsor is committing to provide core assistance to support a successful transition to life in the US.
Complete information on the sponsorship process can be found at uscis.gov/ukraine.
It is important to be aware that as the sponsor, you are making a few critical commitments:
- Provide safe and appropriate housing for the duration of their stay and initial basic necessities.
- Help complete necessary paperwork for employment authorization, a Social Security card, and for services for which they may be eligible.
- Ensure that the beneficiary’s health care and medical needs are met for the duration of the parolee.
- Help the beneficiary access education, learn English, secure employment and enroll children in school.
- While JFCS is available to help sponsors navigate the system, it is the sponsor’s legal responsibility to support the arrival.
5) How can JFCS help Ukrainians coming to Pittsburgh?
In addition to immigration legal assistance, our dedicated team of Russian- and Ukrainian- speaking staff are focused on working with and meeting the needs of Ukrainians. Humanitarian parolees qualify for benefits like other legal U.S. residents.
The following services and benefits are available to Ukranians with humanitarian parolee status.
- Benefits application
- Limited financial assistance
- Cultural orientation
- ESL programs
- Work authorization application
- Employment services
- Immigration legal assistance
- Community connections through support groups and social media
The following departments at JFCS will assist parolees with accessing benefits and support.
- JFCS Refugee & Immigrant Services: Ukrainians who receive humanitarian parolee can receive 90 days of case management to help with benefits paperwork, legal referrals, social security applications, ESL referrals, and other important services that their U.S. sponsors may not be familiar with.
- JFCS Immigration Legal Services: Our team is also available with questions regarding legal status in the U.S. and helping parolees get work authorization.
- JFCS Career Services: Career Counselors are available to meet with Ukranians and assist them in identifying career opportunities in the greater Pittsburgh area.
- Intake line: 412.742.4213
- Email: email@example.com
- Information & Resources: jfcspgh.org/refugees