PHOENIX — This week the Biden administration announced a new process for Ukrainian refugees to apply for humanitarian parole. The new program is called “Uniting for Ukraine”.
Local immigration attorneys like Sheree Wright are hopeful this will truly be a fast-track method to help Ukrainian refugees.
“Instead of having to find your way to the closest border to the U.S. you can now, they have individuals here that are ready and willing to sponsor and host a family,” said Wright.
With this new process, the Department of Homeland Security is warning people to avoid traveling to Mexico and instead apply to the program.
In order to be eligible, Ukrainians must have been residents of the country since February 11. They also must have a sponsor in the U.S., complete some health requirements, and go through the vetting security checks.
Any U.S. citizen or individual can sponsor Ukrainian applicants, but there are also requirements. Wright said this includes not having a criminal history.
“You also have to be above the poverty level,” said Wright. “So, you have to make enough to support your household as well as supporting an additional member or the additional members in your household.”
“It was a very hard process, and we weren’t even sure we would make it,” said Karolina Yermak.
She and her husband Mark Kupfer know first-hand how scary and difficult the immigration process can be.
Mark is a U.S. citizen who worked as a journalist in Ukraine. The pair started the process of trying to get an immigrant visa for Karolina almost two years ago.
“Had there not been a war it would have been even longer,” said Kupfer.
But the announcement about the new process gives the couple hope.
“This is very good news and this is long overdue for Ukrainians with family members in the U.S.,” said Kupfer.
Karolina said she has felt survivor's guilt for being able to leave Ukraine. Now she is sending loved ones overseas information about Uniting for Ukraine, hope they can make it to safety.
“This would be really great for them because it’s a family with two kids, and they also need some medical support,” said Yermak. “This would give them a chance to be here on a legal basis.”
The portal for potential sponsors opens Monday.
Wright recommends that people interested in becoming a sponsor reach out to an immigration attorney.