On March 2, 2022, the U.S. Department of State added Ukraine to the Homeless Nationalities list. The Department of State defines a homeless visa applicant as someone who is “a national of a country in which the United States has no consular representation or in which the political or security situation is tenuous or uncertain enough that the limited consular staff is not authorized to process [immigrant visa] applications.”
The U.S. embassy in Kyiv suspended its operations on February 12, 2022, and the U.S. consulate in Lviv suspended operations on February 24, 2022. With all consular services in Ukraine suspended, the Department of State made an announcement on March 1, 2022, that Frankfurt and Warsaw would serve as processing points for immigrant visa applications for Ukrainian nationals, with Frankfurt being the primary post. Once the National Visa Center completes its review of an immigrant visa application, it will assign the application to one of the designated posts.
The Homeless Nationalities designation at issue is specific to immigrant visa applicants. The Department of State’s March 1, 2022, announcement did not include any instruction for Ukrainian nonimmigrant visa (NIV) applications beyond the standard processing information. In general, nonimmigrant visa applicants may apply in any country in which they have residence or are physically present. Each U.S. embassy has specific application procedures, and the Department of State directs applicants to contact the U.S. embassy or consulate where they wish to apply to confirm the visa application procedures and requirements.
Due to airspace closures and commercial flights grounded in the region, Ukrainians seeking to travel to the United States have the option of applying for visas at U.S. embassies or consulates in neighboring European Union (EU) countries that can be reached via land border crossings. On February 27, 2022, the U.S. embassy in Ukraine provided insight into the conditions at the land border crossings, stating that “most border crossings into Poland and all main crossing points into Moldova are severely backed up and some are experiencing extremely long wait times (well over 30 hours in some cases). We recommend that, if possible, [one] consider redirecting to border crossings with Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, which are currently experiencing lower wait times to cross.”
Until the end of 2022, Ukrainian applicants are not required to have visas to enter countries in the EU for travel of up to 90 days within any 180-day period, pursuant to an association agreement Ukraine entered into with the EU. The terms of this visa-free travel are posted on the European Travel Information and Authorization System’s official website. Travelers outside the EU will need to check the respective countries’ visa/entry requirements for Ukrainian nationals.
Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments with respect to these and other policy changes and will post updates on the Immigration blog as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.