Group of Ukrainians Sue USCIS For Denying Them Immediate Access to Employment Authorization

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Ukrainians Sue USCIS

A group of Ukrainians who moved to the United States in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has filed a complaint against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for requiring them to file employment authorizations and pay associated application fees. In addition, the group has accused the agency of violating Congress’s legislative intent to offer them immediate work eligibility upon their parole into the U.S.

Over 170 Ukrainians have filed a complaint with a federal court in Illinois. They argue that Congress intended them to receive equivalent benefits to those offered to refugees in its $20 billion aid package passed in May of this year. According to the complaint, these benefits include authorization to work upon arrival and without an application fee.

Despite this, the plaintiffs allege that USCIS has required them to undergo a months-long application process to receive employment authorization and pay a $410 application fee. According to a lawyer representing the Ukrainians, the group is simply seeking for USCIS to apply the Additional Ukraine Supplement Appropriations Act as intended.

In this Act, the Ukrainians argue how it states that they “shall be eligible” for refugee benefits. Congress intended this to include immediate and free access to employment authorization documents. The plaintiffs assert that Congress would have included a clarification explicitly stating otherwise. For example, the plaintiffs cited how legislators specifically enclosed a clarification section that outlined particular refugee benefits Ukrainians would not receive. These exceptions included qualification for lawful permanent resident status after residing in the U.S. for one year. However, this section did not include an addendum for work authorization, which the plaintiffs’ counsel has stated shows that Congress did not intend to exclude employment.

More than 100,000 Ukrainians have been accepted into the United States since the Russian invasion began, and more are continuing parole. The plaintiffs seek certification of a class of parolees that will continue to arrive between February 24th, 2022, and September 30th, 2023, and have not received employment authorization documents. To represent this group’s interests, the plaintiffs have asked the court to certify the complaint as a class action lawsuit. The complaint declares that, by denying them immediate work authorization and charging them a $410 application fee, USCIS violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

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