Immediate Work Permits for Ukrainians, Afghans, and Others with Humanitarian Parole

Immediate Work Permits for Ukrainians, Afghans, and Others with Humanitarian Parole

July 6, 2022
Signatures: 6,139Next Goal: 7,500
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Why this petition matters

Started by Anne Smith

Dear friends,

We need you to alert the Biden Administration and Members of Congress about the serious danger of exploitation and victimization facing over 160,000 newly arriving Ukrainians, Afghans, and other vulnerable individuals in the United States due to their lack of access to lawful employment opportunities. Please read below to learn our temporary solution that could be easily and equitably implemented by federal agencies.

Over 50,000 Afghans and Ukrainians fleeing the devastation of war and brutal persecution have already been admitted to the United States through humanitarian parole in the past year, as well as families from Cuba, Haiti, and over 1,500 minors and qualifying relatives from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. More are arriving each day.

Yet, the majority of these individuals will not be legally permitted to work for what could be a year or even longer – despite being granted entry through a program specifically intended to grant immigrants the right to work in order to support themselves and their families.

Staggering delays face all individuals applying for employment authorization, a process which used to take U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) 3 months and now takes 8-13 months to adjudicate. 

This means Ukrainians, Afghans, and others fleeing war or persecution who have been granted humanitarian parole will not be able to work legally for a substantial duration of their parole after applying for employment authorization. This is especially concerning as USCIS receives a sizeable filing fee of $410 per application up-front, which is presumed to support the costs of staffing necessary for processing and adjudication in a timely and efficient manner. Households with more than one person applying for a work permit have an up-front cost of $820 or more.

The agency has acknowledged its unprecedented backlog of applications caused by skyrocketing demand and lack of staffing to process them. Bloomberg Law reported in May that USCIS had more than 1.5 million pending applications for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) according to data released for the first quarter of fiscal year 2022.

As a result, too many recent arrivals -- many of whom left behind or tragically lost their spouses, parents, and children -- will be forced by necessity into the underground economy with minimal English skills and no knowledge of their rights, rendering them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Of particular concern is the high risk of physical and financial exploitation, as well as the realistic fear of human trafficking and domestic violence for the tens of thousands of women and children arriving here without a trusted network of family or friends they can turn to. Many mothers will do whatever they can to support their children as they try to fill in missing incomes while their husbands, fiancés, brothers, and fathers remain in Ukraine (or who were tragically killed in the war).

We have already heard of women putting themselves in dire circumstances to earn a living, jumping at whatever opportunities come their way – particularly those who were admitted on humanitarian parole without a U.S. sponsor. Children are also at risk of exploitation, victimization, and domestic violence, especially if they are forced into a living situation where their mother cannot legally work and must depend on a stranger for housing and other needs.

Even individuals who arrive through the Uniting for Ukraine program as financial beneficiaries place an undue and unnecessary material burden on U.S. sponsors when they cannot work for a year or more. Many sponsors -- who are themselves recent arrivals, struggling families, or single-earner households -- are already forced to provide food, necessities, housing, medical insurance, transportation, and other services for up to two years.

It's not surprising that Attorneys General of 19 states wrote last fall that creating a burden for immigrants to work would “lower tax revenue for the States, harm the States’ industries, increase reliance on State-funded programs, and make it harder for the States to enforce their labor and civil rights laws.”

There are also legal consequences. Ukrainians, Afghans, and others who have no choice but to work without employment authorization will violate U.S. immigration laws, jeopardizing their future immigration status and potential goals of citizenship. 

What can we do to prevent these catastrophes from happening? USCIS can adjust its procedures within the existing application process to temporarily grant conditional employment authorization to Ukrainians, Afghans, and others granted humanitarian parole.

Here's what we propose:

  • All individuals who are admitted on humanitarian parole who are eligible to apply for employment authorization can file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) online through their USCIS account. This includes 1) individuals from Ukraine, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and other countries who were granted humanitarian parole at a U.S. border; 2) Afghans who were admitted through humanitarian parole; and 3) Ukrainians granted parole under the Uniting for Ukraine program. 
  • Per the Form I-765 instructions, all applicants who have been granted humanitarian parole should designate their eligibility category as “(c)(11) Public Interest parolees” when filing.
  • USCIS will issue an automatic confirmation email upon electronic receipt of the applicant’s Form I-765 specific to the “(c)(11) Public Interest parolees” designation. We understand USCIS already utilizes multiple I-765 receipt notices based on an applicant’s eligibility category, so such a response could be implemented with minimal adjustment. Alternatively, USCIS could issue a subsequent email to applicants who file using the “(c)(11) Public Interest parolees” designation following the initial I-765 receipt notice.  
  • In its confirmation or subsequent email, USCIS will issue a temporary conditional work authorization permitting applicants to work in the U.S. for up to 180 days while USCIS processes their Form I-765. Individuals will be able to show the conditional work authorization notice to employers to demonstrate eligibility for lawful employment without violating their immigration status.
  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) will accept a 180-day temporary conditional work authorization as sufficient to issue a Social Security number to applicants who request one on their Form I-765. USCIS will use the same process it uses presently to inform the SSA when the temporary conditional work authorization is issued.
  • If USCIS is unable to process an applicant’s Form I-765 within 180 days, the agency may, at its discretion, extend the individual’s temporary conditional approval for up to another 180 days
  • Applicants who receive a formal decision from USCIS approving their employment authorization and who are issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will present their EAD card moving forward to demonstrate lawful employment. Applicants who receive a formal denial will not be permitted to continue working lawfully upon learning the decision.
  • If USCIS is unable to timely process an applicant’s Form I-765 within 12 months and issue a full decision, then the applicant will have the option of filing a retroactive fee waiver to receive a refund. 

Please urge the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Biden Administration to expeditiously implement these critical changes.

We stand ready to provide support and assistance to ensure that all humanitarian parolees are promptly granted the right to work lawfully to support themselves and their families.

For more information, and to learn other ways we advocate to improve the U.S. immigration process for individuals fleeing war and persecution, contact us at


Ukraine Immigration Task Force 

Photos by Tetiana SHYSHKINA and Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash.

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Signatures: 6,139Next Goal: 7,500
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