Ask Sophie: How do we relocate Ukrainian and Russian team members to the U.S.?

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Here’s another edition of “Ask Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

TechCrunch+ members receive access to weekly “Ask Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

Our startup employs about 30 people globally through a combination of direct and co-employment based on their country.

Over the last year and a half or so, we helped several team members relocate from Ukraine and Russia to various non-Schengen countries such as Georgia, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.

We realize it’s more expensive if we bring these employees to the U.S., but our startup will be more successful. How do we bring them here?

— Meaningful Moneymaking

Dear Meaningful Moneymaking,

Many companies have helped make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, supporting talented team members and their families from countries such as Ukraine and Russia to relocate to safety. Thank you for now considering how to help certain individuals relocate to the U.S. May all humans enjoy peace, prosperity, and freedom.

Many employers are continuing to work with the Ukrainian and Russian professionals who have left their homes since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Of the 8 million people who have left Ukraine, more than 270,000 have been admitted to the United States, most of them under the Uniting for Ukraine program, which provides a temporary stay in the United States and a work permit.

Between 500,000 and as many as 1 million people have left Russia and thousands of Russians have sought entry to the U.S. between February 2022 and April 2023. According to Russian government figures, about 100,000 IT specialists (about 10% of the tech workforce) left Russia, which is likely underestimated.

Before I dive into options for bringing Ukrainian and Russian employees to the United States, I recommend you work with an immigration attorney to devise a strategy for each employee you’re seeking to sponsor based on their education, skills, qualifications, location, and situation. Your company has several options for bringing your Ukrainian and Russian employees to live and work in the United States.

Uniting for Ukraine

The Uniting for Ukraine program, which began last year, provides a way for Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members to come to the United States to stay for two years under temporary parole status. Individuals participating in the program must have a U.S.-based supporter or multiple supporters — an individual, organization, or business — who agrees to financially support their stay.

The supporter must fill out Form I-134A (Online Request to be a Supporter and Declaration of Financial Support) and submit it to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The program includes the option for a Employment Authorization Document (EAD) — otherwise known as a work permit.

Right now, parole under the Uniting for Ukraine program cannot be extended beyond two years, but that may change. Your company could consider sponsoring employees on parole for work visas or green cards. I explain in more detail below.


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