Dear Sophie: How Can US tech companies support Ukrainians with Immigration?
By Sophie Alcorn, U.S. Immigration Lawyer
Can you please provide guidance and counsel for companies to support Ukrainian team members who are evacuating to the U.S.?
— Magnanimous VC
The practice of immigration is subject to the ever-changing tides of geopolitical changes, and now, the battles in Ukraine. Ultimately, immigration is all about the human journey to freedom: We transcend border walls, the circumstances of our births, and current conditions (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively) to cross through liminal spaces on our journeys to the birthright of actualizing our human potential.
It’s easy to feel fear when we face the uncertainty of world events, including everything happening in Ukraine. One way to get out of our own heads and get back to listening to our hearts is through acts of service, by heeding the call to support one another to find safety, security and the freedom to live our dreams. Our actions seeded with love in the microcosm always support the macrocosm.
Because of the flood of inquiries we’ve been receiving on the topic of Ukrainian immigration to the U.S., below are some guidelines for how U.S. founders, tech companies, and VCs can support Ukrainian citizens with U.S. immigration.
10-step checklist for U.S. tech companies to support Ukrainians with immigration
Make a list of all of your team members who are Ukrainian citizens.
Indicate their last known location; whether they have any other citizenships; whether they have a visa to the United States and, if so, what category it is in; whether you are aware of any family members; whether they were employees or contractors, and any other notes.
If you have contact with these individuals, make a plan for backup communication methods if necessary.
Ukrainians can safely store and share documents digitally through A26 Backpack from UC Davis.
Help with travel arrangements.
If any of these individuals who are outside the United States currently have valid visas that allow them to enter the United States in any status, support them with travel arrangements to come to the United States.
You can go above and beyond by providing food and shelter for their trip. In parallel, talk to your immigration attorney ASAP about what arrangements can be made to support them after they arrive, such as a change of status.
The U.S. government has already made an exception in the national interest and Ukrainian citizens with valid visas do not need to have COVID vaccinations or a negative COVID test to enter the United States.
Support qualifying folks with ESTA applications.
If any of these individuals have dual citizenship in a country that allows for ESTA, the U.S. Visa waiver program, support them in applying for this electronic travel authorization to come to the United States.
Keep in mind that people cannot qualify for ESTA based on Ukrainian citizenship.
Consider intercompany and investor visa options.
If you have any subsidiaries in Ukraine, consult with an immigration attorney immediately about L-1 visas; use a blanket petition if possible. Be sure to use premium processing.
If you are a majority-Ukrainian-owned company in the United States, talk to your attorney about the E-2 visa for any Ukrainian citizens who have essential skills.
Learn More about Possible Immigration Pathways to the United States for UkrainiansSophie Alcorn is an attorney and Board Certified as a Specialist in United States Immigration and Nationality Law by the State Bar of California.
Connect with Sophie today and request a consultation to address the specifics of your immigration questions.
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