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July 14, 2022
Uniting for Ukraine: what Ukrainians should know about the update

From the notes of immigration lawyer Taylor Levy, Esq.

☝Lately, we have been hearing several reports of Ukrainians with approved Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) travel authorizations being denied boarding on airplanes to the US because they only possess an internal/domestic passport, rather than an international passport.

I brought this question to DHS Headquarters in Washington, DC, and was told the following.

🇺🇦The U4U requirements have always mandated that beneficiaries “possess a valid Ukrainian passport (or are a child included on a parent’s passport)” It is DHS’ position that this means a valid international passport and that internal/domestic passports do not satisfy this requirement.

📂While DHS recognizes that some beneficiaries may have been able to travel in the past using an internal/domestic passport, this was not intentional and is not official policy. Likewise, while some beneficiaries may have approved Travel Authorizations despite having submitted only internal/domestic passports, they should not expect that this means they will be permitted to board an airplane to the U.S. if they do not have a valid international passport.

DHS says they have worked internally to strengthen their systems to avoid this confusion in the future.

DHS also listened to my concerns that the webpage be made more clear regarding internal/domestic passports, and that they strongly consider changing this policy.

For practitioners, my suggested best practices would be to alert clients about the possibility that they may not be allowed to board the airplane if they are not in possession of a valid international passport. This is important at the initial application stage and for people with already-approved applications; they should know that they may spend money on plane tickets and then not be permitted to board the plane. They may or may not want to assume that risk. I do not have suggestions for people who are worried that their Travel Authorization will expire prior to the time it takes to get a valid international passport.

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