Minor children (children under 18 years old) are only allowed to enter the United States when accompanied by an adult who can verify their legal custody of the child. Thus, children who are traveling to the U.S. under Uniting for Ukraine must be accompanied by at least one parent or legal guardian, and the adult must have proof of legal custody over the child.
Please be advised that a minor child who tries to enter the United States without an adult will almost certainly be detained. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will not release an unaccompanied minor into the United States out of concern for human trafficking and other safety hazards. Minor children should not travel alone into the United States.
Likewise, minor children who travel with an adult who does not possess the child’s birth certificate or a court-ordered custody document are likely to be separated and/or detained.
A biological parent who is traveling with a minor child should try to provide a birth certificate for the child that includes the parent’s name on it.
Adults other than biological parents who accompany a minor child(ren) must have proof of Legal Guardianship for each child they plan to travel with. This includes grandparents, aunts or uncles, adult siblings, step-parents, cousins, distant relatives, and any other adults. The proof of Legal Guardianship must be in the form of a judicial custody order. This document should be 1) issued by the court and 2) prove the adult’s legal guardianship over the child.
In addition, it is strongly recommend to bring a certified translation of the birth certificate or proof of Legal Guardianship. When you and the minor child arrive at a U.S. port of entry (such as an airport), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will ask to see these documents. If the documents are in Ukrainian or a language other than English, the CBP officer may not accept them if they cannot translate them or a translator is not available to verify the document’s content. If the CBP officer is unable to confirm that the adult has legal authorization to travel with the child, then the adult and child could be separated while they are questioned and the situation is investigated.
Please note that a Power of Attorney or “Dovirenist” (Довіреність) is not an acceptable form of Legal Guardianship. Also, a “notarized permit” or “permission letter” from one parent to another parent or guardian (including another family member) allowing them to take the child out of Ukraine is not sufficient for the child to be allowed entry into the United States.
USCIS states that “A legal guardian is an individual who:
Has been granted legal custody of an individual or minor, by a court of law or competent jurisdiction, or by the state or recognized governmental entity; and
Can lawfully exercise and assume legal obligations on an individual’s or minor’s behalf.
A family member or other person who has written authorization from a parent to travel with a minor child is not a legal guardian for Uniting for Ukraine purposes.”
USCIS clarifies that “Generally, evidence of legal guardianship requires a legal or administrative process involving the courts or other recognized government entity. A power of attorney or written or notarized statement is not a formally recognized arrangement.”
The same guidance is stated in the Minor Eligibility Attestation | USCIS page:
“Generally, evidence of legal guardianship requires that a legal or administrative process involving the courts or other recognized government entity take place … a power of attorney or written and/or notarized statement is not a formally recognized arrangement.”