Since Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, the U.S. has provided certain Ukrainians with temporary authorization, or parole, to remain in the country. However, multiple agencies, including Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), have been involved in this process, which caused concern that there wouldn’t be a streamlined process for re-parole requests that could be completed quickly and efficiently. Now, USCIS offered a degree of security for the 170,000 Ukrainians with parole grants, by announcing that they may re-apply for another two-year stay in the U.S. directly with USCIS. 

The Biden administration launched the Uniting for Ukraine parole program in April 2022, to allow displaced Ukrainian nationals to enter the U.S. through a “safe, legal, and orderly pathway” and discourage them from attempting to enter via the U.S./Mexico border, as 23,000 Ukrainians had done since February (most of them by presenting themselves at ports of entry). U4U requires a U.S.-based sponsor for the initial parole request and requestors must arrange their own air travel to the United States.  

Ukrainians interested in re-parole must file their requests before their current parole grant is set to expire. USCIS recommends that forms be submitted at least 60 days prior to the expiration date. While initial parole applications were free, Ukrainians seeking re-parole must pay the fee for Form I-131, which is currently $575. Fees are set to increase to $630 beginning on April 1, 2024.   

The process for applying for a new work permit (employment authorization document, or EAD) has also changed. Initially, Ukrainians were allowed to apply for EADs at the same time they applied for parole without a fee thanks to a May 2022 law, which authorized Ukrainians paroled before September 30, 2023 to be eligible for the same benefits typically offered to refugees. Now, however, Ukrainians must wait until their re-parole is approved before applying for a new EAD—and they will have to pay for the new work authorization request. These fees are also set to increase on April 1st and will vary depending on whether the form is filed online or by mail.  

Ukrainian parolees will continue to receive federal entitlement benefits and resettlement assistance under the May 2022 law, as refugees do. This includes supplemental income, food stamps, job training and case management. This safety net has helped to remove barriers to the integration of displaced Ukrainians into communities across the country. 

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnston, whose city has seen more than 36,000 recently arrived migrants, has highlighted how this support has helped his city, “When we had asylees from Afghanistan or Ukraine, we had federal support, we had coordinated entry, we had work authorization and those efforts worked quite smoothly.” In contrast, asylum applicants and migrants paroled from most other countries have had to rely mostly on local and state support for integration—resulting in overwhelmed local governments and less success with integrating new arrivals. 

Unfortunately, because these benefits are only available to those who were paroled before September 30, 2023, vulnerable Ukrainians arriving after that date are prevented from accessing them.  

While there are attempts by Congress to extend this support to newer arrivals from Ukraine, their prospects look dim. For example, the bipartisan National Security Act, which passed the Senate on February 13, 2024, provides additional military funding to Ukraine and includes a provision that would extend refugee-like benefits to those paroled before September 30, 2024. However, the Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, has indicated that he will not move the bill because it does not include provisions that would severely limit asylum and restrict entry to migrants at the southern border.  

President Biden has also designated Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). However, TPS is designated for a shorter period (18 months compared to 2 years for parole) and does not give Ukrainians access to the benefits that Congress authorized for parolees.  

Parole has served as a lifeline for displaced Ukrainians looking for safety after the invasion of their country. To ensure that Ukrainians continue to benefit from this policy, USCIS must process and adjudicate their re-parole requests quickly, especially as requesters must wait for approval before applying for work authorization. In addition, as the war in Ukraine continues, Congress must pass reauthorizing language so that newly arriving and vulnerable Ukrainian humanitarian parolees can receive the benefits and services they need to successfully integrate.