What to know about Biden’s Ukrainian refugee program

The Biden administration recently unveiled a plan to welcome a small portion of the millions of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.


"Uniting for Ukraine" is a humanitarian parole program that will allow individuals and private groups to sponsor or offer temporary protection to Ukrainians who have been displaced by the war. But for those who want to help, there are key conditions to be aware of before applying. Yahoo News spoke with two experts about Biden's Ukrainian refugee program and what you need to know about it.

Video transcript

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NAZANIN ASH: We've all been overwhelmed by the images of destruction and devastation that have been ongoing in Ukraine now for nearly two months and have resulted in a refugee crisis on a scale that Europe hasn't seen, the world hasn't seen since World War II. And at the same time, we've all been inspired by the extraordinary acts of welcome that we've seen exhibited by European citizens everywhere. And last week, the Biden administration announced an opportunity for Americans to show their generosity and their welcome as well.

JOE BIDEN: Today I'm announcing a program, Unite for Ukraine. This new humanitarian parole program will complement the existing legal pathways available to Ukrainians, including immigrant visas and refugees processing.

JACOB SAPOCHNICK: The key with this program is that they had to be in Ukraine on February 11, which is kind of when the war started, and they had to be in Ukraine essentially leaving or fleeing the wars. What they need also is a US sponsor. They have to be green card holders or citizens.

NAZANIN ASH: When you are signing up to be a sponsor, you're signing up to be the welcomer and the navigator for the beneficiary, the family that's coming to the United States. And that means thinking through and providing all of the things that would allow someone to feel welcome and get their footing in a new country and in a new community. So sponsors will be vetted and background-checked.

The application asks you to provide information about the financial assets you'll have available. Homeland Security will review for whether it seems like you can provide that initial safety net for a family arriving here. And then similarly, for the beneficiary, it's the Department of Homeland Security that will conduct all security and background checks for Ukrainians as well. And it's only after both of those checks have been conducted that the application is approved.

JACOB SAPOCHNICK: It's not part of the refugee resettlement. And this is just a temporary, two-year permit for them to enter and be able to work and stay here safely until Ukraine is back in order so they can go back to Ukraine. As far as I know, they're not eligible for any of the programs that typically refugees or asylees get until further notice. Maybe the government will reissue those at some point. But for the moment, I don't think they're eligible for any programs.

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NAZANIN ASH: What we're doing at Welcome.US right now is helping to design some of the matching platforms that we hope many organizations can then use to be able to match sponsors with beneficiaries who are looking to be assisted. But we know people will find themselves in many ways.

JACOB SAPOCHNICK: So I think it's important to, before you sponsor anybody, just to talk to them, understand who they are, have a few conversations to see that you're comfortable, and see if you have a connection with them. It's not just a piece of paper. It's a big responsibility.

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