April 26 (UPI) — President Joe Biden‘s new program “Uniting for Ukraine” begins Monday, offering a streamlined process for refugees seeking to enter the United States.
The program, announced last week, will help the United States fulfill Biden’s commitment to welcoming as many as 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing the war in Ukraine.
“It will provide an expedient channel for secure, legal migration from Europe to the U.S. for Ukrainians who have a U.S. sponsor,” Biden had said when announcing the program.
Ukrainians who meet certain criteria will be able to apply for humanitarian parole. If approved, they will be authorized for two years to travel to the United States and eligible for work authorization, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.
Those seeking to apply must have been a citizen living in Ukraine before Feb. 11, just two weeks before the invasion began, and have a sponsor in the United States, the DHS said.
Applicants must also meet vaccination and health requirements and pass “rigorous” security checks.
“The United States strongly encourages Ukrainians seeking refuge in the United States who do not have and are not eligible for a visa to seek entry via Uniting for Ukraine from Europe,” the DHS statement reads. “This will be the safest and most efficient way to pursue temporary refuge in the United States.”
Officials said that Ukrainians who attempt to travel to the United States through Mexico or other land ports of entry without a valid visa or preauthorization will not be allowed into the country.
The State Department said it would expand operations for its U.S. Refugee Admissions Program in Europe to provide greater access to Ukrainians seeking refugee resettlement and expand mechanisms for those seeking permanent resettlement.
“The Ukrainian people continue to suffer immense tragedy and loss as a result of Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on their country,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas.
“DHS will continue to provide relief to the Ukrainian people, while supporting our European allies who have shouldered so much as the result of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.”
Data from the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees shows that more than 5.2 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the invasion began on Feb. 24.
The majority of those refugees, nearly 3 million, have fled to Poland which is in the Schengen Area of Europe. The Schengen Area allows people to move freely between countries. As such, it remains unclear how many refugees have since continued to other countries within Europe.
Another 492,976 refugees have fled to Hungary while 355,593 fled to Slovakia, both of which are inside the Schengen Area. There have been 777,602 refugees who have fled to Romania while 433,895 have fled to Moldova.