On September 20, 2023, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new procedure for minor children (under 18 years old) who have parents or legal guardians residing in the United States to travel under Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) to reunite with their parents or legal guardians.
If a child’s parents or legal guardians have lawful status in the United States and have been pre-authorized to re-enter the United States after traveling abroad, they may be eligible to leave the United States then return with their minor child to the United States. Non-citizens may apply for authorization to travel outside of the U.S. and return by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. If the child is approved as a beneficiary and the parent or guardian obtains an advance travel document to re-enter the United States, they may accompany the child to the United States.
To learn more about traveling outside of the U.S. while on humanitarian parole or TPS, read our article here: https://ukrainetaskforce.org/applying-to-travel-outside-of-the-u-s-with-humanitarian-parole-or-tps/
Sponsor and Beneficiary Eligibility
To be eligible as a supporter (sponsor), the U.S.-based parent or legal guardian must have lawful status in the United States (including parole through Uniting for Ukraine or another parole entry). The supporter does not need to be related to the child, but they must have evidence of legal guardianship of the child. To be eligible as a beneficiary, the minor child must be a Ukrainian citizen (or an immediate family member of a Ukrainian citizen) and must have resided in Ukraine through February 11, 2022. Sponsors and beneficiaries must meet the other eligibility criteria for Uniting for Ukraine, which can be found here: https://www.uscis.gov/ukraine
All potential supporters must pass security and background vetting and demonstrate sufficient financial resources to receive, maintain, and support the individuals they are committing to support for the duration of their period of parole.
To request consideration under Uniting for Ukraine, the parent or legal guardian must file Form I-134A, Online Request to be a Supporter and Declaration of Financial Support, and name the child as a beneficiary.
After USCIS confirms the supporter’s Form I-134A, the supporter should follow these steps:
Step 1: Log in to their online USCIS account.
Step 2: From the top of the webpage, select the “My Account” drop-down menu and select Inbox.
Step 3: Click on the “New Message” button.
Step 4: For the subject, select “Other” from the drop-down menu, and for the case receipt number, select the receipt number for Form I-134A, Online Request to be a Supporter and Declaration of Financial Support.
Step 5: In the message field, write “U4U Child Reunification” and state that they are “contacting USCIS on behalf of a child under age 18 who is eligible for Uniting for Ukraine, and who has a parent or legal guardian who can depart and reenter the United States to accompany their child so the child can use the Uniting for Ukraine process.”
In addition, the supporter should upload in their online account this supporting documentation:
- Evidence of the parental relationship or legal guardianship of the child.
- Evidence may include a birth certificate for the child and identity documents for the parent or legal guardian.
- 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.
- Evidence that the parent or legal guardian has documentation or authorization to travel and re-enter the United States.
- This documentation may include proof of U.S. citizenship, a Green Card, or an advance parole/travel document such as Form I-512, I-512L, or I-512T (apply by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document).
- A signed statement affirming that the parent or legal guardian will accompany the child to the United States and provide care and physical custody of that child in the United States.
- Full English language translations for any documents submitted to USCIS that contain foreign language. A translator must certify that they are complete and accurate, and you must include the translator’s certification that they are competent to translate from the foreign language into English.
Previously Filed Form I-134A Naming the Child as a Beneficiary
If any U.S.-based supporter has already submitted Form I-134A for a child under age 18 who has an eligible parent or legal guardian residing in the United States, do not submit a new Form I-134A. Instead, send USCIS a secure message following Steps 2-5 above. USCIS will not accept a duplicate Form I-134A for the same beneficiary if a previously submitted Form I-134A between the same potential supporter and beneficiary is pending.
Documents Needed for Traveling with Minor Children
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.
Legal guardian 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 the adult and 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.”
For more information and Frequently Asked Questions about Uniting for Ukraine, visit: https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/uniting-for-ukraine/frequently-asked-questions-about-uniting-for-ukraine
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