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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ukrainians in Spokane and the rest of U.S. can remain longer with two-year extension

Ukrainian refugee Yuliia Boicheva works the front desk at Thrive International. Boicheva lived in Odessa, Ukraine, when Russia invaded. She came months later to the U.S. with her husband and teen son, traveling to Spokane where her husband’s uncle lives.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Thousands of Ukrainians who have sought refuge in the United States during the Russian invasion of their homeland will be able to stay for up to an additional two years, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Tuesday.

The announcement ends a period of uncertainty for those who entered the country through Uniting for Ukraine, a streamlined temporary resettlement program that officially began in April 2022 but only allowed Ukrainians to remain in the U.S. for up to two years.

Over 170,000 Ukrainians have entered the U.S. through that same program, including Yuliia Boicheva and her family, who came to Spokane nearly two years ago and have been supported by local nonprofit Thrive International. Over 2,200 Ukrainians have come to Spokane County through various programs since early 2022, many of whom entered the U.S. via Uniting for Ukraine.

Their parole in the country, a legal status that does not come with any of the federal services granted for refugee resettlement or a pathway to apply for permanent residency, had been set to expire in May.

It’s not the first time that the U.S. has extended a similar program just before it expired. Afghans who came to America after the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021 also initially were offered two-year stays, which were later renewed.

Unlike the extension for Afghans, however, Ukrainians applying for an extension will not have their work authorization automatically renewed at the same time, meaning some whose parole expires as soon as March may still be thrown in a temporary legal limbo as their paperwork is processed. Representatives from Citizenship and Immigration Services did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Also unlike the Afghan parole extension, Ukrainians in the country through the Uniting for Ukraine program will have to pay a $575 filing fee to request an extension.