MISSOULA — We are continuing to see the heartbreaking pictures and videos of millions of Ukrainians fleeing to neighboring European countries as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues.
But what about those trying to reach U.S. borders to be with family or other loved ones? What legal options do they have?
It’s a scene of loss and devastation with families and loved ones separated as Ukrainian men stay to fight for their country.
“We have populations that have been displaced," said International Rescue Committee (IRC) Missoula Deputy Director Eamon Fahey.
The Biden Administration recently gave the green light for Temporary Protection Status (TPS) to all Ukrainians who are in the US on or before March 1.
TPS grants temporary immigration status to countries that are battling ongoing conflict and the current status of Ukraine falls into the country designation requirements.
“For all Ukrainians that are here in the US, already as of March 1 — the day before it was granted — will be able to get TPS for 18 months,” explained immigration attorney Randall Caudle.
But what about those refugees who might have made it to European countries, but not the states before the TPS deadline?
Caudle says there are some options including requesting a Visitor Visa.
“These are exceptional circumstances, exceptional times," Cadule told MTN News. "So it's at least worth a shot to apply for a visitor's visa. If you can get out of the Ukraine and get to a U.S. Embassy.”
Historically a visitor's visa is hard to get because you have to prove to the U.S. government you will return to your home country. But in dire times, come dire needs; make it to a U.S. Embassy and there’s a shot.
“Consular personnel at the U.S. Embassy is being very liberal granting visitor visas to come to the U.S., knowing full well that if Russia overtakes the Ukraine, these people are not going to go back to the Ukraine in the future," said Caudle.
As the world watches the conflict unfold, for refugees fleeing their home country is no easy task — even as the cries of war surround them.
“There's so much uncertainty," said Fahey. "They don't know where their new home will be, when they will have a new home, when they might be reconnected with loved ones — if ever.”
Missoula welcomed Afghan refugees who were in a similar position back in August. While there are different circumstances, both situations involve fleeing citizens.
Currently, the United States does not have mass evacuation plans, like we saw for Afghan nationals and Fahey says there is a reason for that.
“Part of the reason that so many folks in Afghanistan were in danger is because they helped the United States in our efforts," said Fahey. "And many different ways- whether it was helping our armed forces, whether it was serving humanitarian organizations or perhaps they were journalists. But anyhow, we felt, I think, a moral obligation to help them.”
Caudle is offering free legal advice for those seeking to bring their Ukrainian loved ones to the states. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.