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U.S. launches online portal with application to sponsor Ukrainians fleeing war

U.S. sponsorship plan for Ukrainian refugees
U.S. unveils sponsorship program for Ukrainian refugees 05:17

The U.S. government on Monday started accepting applications from individuals and organizations seeking to help Ukrainians fleeing the war in Ukraine come to the U.S., launching an online portal for prospective sponsors.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the private sponsorship initiative last week, presenting it as the main mechanism through which the U.S. will achieve President Biden's commitment of receiving up to 100,000 Ukrainians displaced by the Russian military invasion of their homeland. 

On Monday, DHS published a page on its website for U.S. citizens and groups who have identified Ukrainians overseas whom they wish to financially sponsor. The online portal includes a link to the application form that prospective sponsors can file to prove they have the financial means to support Ukrainians seeking to enter the country.

Ukrainians hoping to come to the U.S. will not be able to apply for the sponsorship program, dubbed Uniting for Ukraine, directly. The application process can only be started by prospective sponsors in the U.S. 

If prospective sponsors pass background checks and DHS approves their sponsorship applications, the Ukrainians they have identified will be allowed to enter the U.S. as long as they satisfy certain requirements, including security screenings and vaccination against contagious diseases.

Ukrainians who are allowed to enter the U.S. under the sponsorship initiative will not be resettled through the refugee program, DHS said last week. Instead, they will be granted humanitarian parole, which would allow them to live and work in the U.S. for at least two years. Parole will not make them eligible for permanent U.S. status.

More than 5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russian forces launched a military offensive against the country in late February, triggering the largest refugee exodus since World War II, according to United Nations statistics.

U.S. officials have said the vast majority of Ukrainians displaced by the war will opt to remain in European countries closer to Ukraine, and that Ukrainians looking to come to the U.S. are generally seeking a temporary safe haven, not permanent resettlement.

That determination, administration officials told reporters last week, prompted the U.S. government to utilize the parole authority, which officials can use to temporarily admit immigrants who otherwise don't have permission to enter the U.S., such as a visa.

Administration officials said the private sponsorship program was also partly created to shut down an irregular route thousands of Ukrainians have used in recent months to enter the U.S. along the border with Mexico after multi-flight trips from Eastern Europe.

In the past three months, U.S. border officials have processed 15,000 Ukrainians who did not have valid travel documents, according to a senior U.S. official. In March, a record 3,274 Ukrainians were processed along the southern border, the majority at a port of entry in southern California, DHS figures show.

In early March, U.S. border authorities were directed to consider allowing undocumented Ukrainians to enter the country under humanitarian exemptions to an emergency rule know as Title 42 that has blocked other migrants from seeking U.S. asylum during the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Biden administration announced last week that starting Monday, U.S. border authorities will no longer allow Ukrainians to enter the country if they lack valid travel documents. Instead, officials said, those Ukrainians will be instructed to participate in the Uniting for Ukraine sponsorship program. 

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