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I am an American citizen and I have been living in Ukraine for a large portion of my life. I am married to a Ukrainian citizen and due to the war here I am evaluating what I can do .

What I want to ask is can I take my wife to the U.S border and claim asylum for her?

I evaluated the Poland immigrant visa route and it seems that it will take a very long time and if I was there , I would need leave in 90 days and somehow support her. Unfortunately time and money are of the essence here.

If I was to get to the U.S I could stay with family until I find work. It just seems impossible for me to support her.

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  • What Poland immigrant visa route? If you had a Polish immigrant visa, you would not need to leave after 90 days. If she seeks asylum in Poland (or elsewhere), you might be able to stay with her through "family reunification." I don't know of anything preventing her from seeking asylum in the US, but I wouldn't necessarily. How would she get there? Does she already have a B visa? Also, if she does manage to get to the US, she can apply for a green card via adjustment of status instead of requesting asylum.
    – phoog
    Mar 4, 2022 at 11:43
  • She doesn't have any documents apart form the Ukrainian passport.
    – LUser
    Mar 4, 2022 at 11:46
  • Rereading my answer, I realize that it could be more focused depending on whether you prefer to end up in the US or Poland (or elsewhere) and on whether you would want to return to Ukraine once the fighting is over (even if that decision would be contingent on the political outcome of the war).
    – phoog
    Mar 4, 2022 at 12:55
  • If Ukraine is still Ukrainian , then I would return.
    – LUser
    Mar 4, 2022 at 13:00
  • Ukrainian citizens can stay in the EU visa-free for upto 3 years. If you have to return to the US, she can stay in the EU while you arrange a spousal visa for her (or seek a job in the EU). I realise that you will want to be with her during these harrowing times, but this might be the best way forward. theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/02/…
    – CSM
    Mar 5, 2022 at 17:04

3 Answers 3

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Legally speaking, your wife would be claiming asylum for herself, in contrast to the normal family-based immigration process, which would start with your filing a petition on her behalf. That is of course a time consuming process.

Practically speaking, there would be several questions to which I do not know the answers. However, the main problem with this plan is that your wife doesn't have a US visa. You might be able to get her to the border through Canada or Mexico, but there are probably easier solutions. This is especially true if you'd rather be in Poland than in the US, but even if you want to go to the US, a spouse visa application is more straightforward than an application for asylum, so it would make more sense in most circumstances.

(I don't know whether it's legally possible for the spouse of a US citizen to apply for asylum instead of regular immigrant status. I looked for such a provision and didn't find one, but I easily could have overlooked it.)

To fly to the US, your wife needs a US visa. The State Department will not grant a B visa (a.k.a. tourist visa) if the officer believes the applicant intends to stay in the US, including by applying for asylum. They will grant an immigrant visa through the normal family-based immigration process, but that of course takes time.

If your wife wants to go to Poland or another neighboring country to escape the war, she should go as a refugee rather than through the normal immigrant process. This takes only as long as is needed to cross the border (see the first Polish government link below). If she remains in Poland for a while, there ought to be a family reunification scheme that would allow you to remain with her. Regardless, Poland may allow you to stay for more than 90 days even if you don't have a visa, because you too are fleeing the war. From the second Polish government website linked below:

All persons fleeing from Ukraine from the armed conflict do not need to register or worry about formalities at reception points. All persons fleeing Ukraine, seeking refuge in Poland, do not need to worry about the legality of their stay. There is also no need to submit any applications at the Office for Foreigners/voivodship offices / Border Guard posts in the coming days.

US consular services are suspended in Ukraine, so you'd have to go to another country anyway for her to apply for anything. I presume you're not in immediate danger; if you are, go to Poland or somewhere else safe and work it out from there.

Relevant links:

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  • A spouse of a US citizen can apply for asylum, but like any other alien applying for asylum, they have to be in the US. I don't know if a spouse of a US citizen can be admitted as a refugee, since I have no idea how exactly USRAP makes their discretionary determinations of who gets the limited slots per year, and I also have no idea whether this would be faster than the immigrant visa process.
    – Brian
    Mar 5, 2022 at 20:27
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Canada has announced a special travel authorisation program for Ukrainians that allows up to two year stay in Canada, during which time you can probably stay with her, as a US citizen, and work through the family reunification process.

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US individuals and organizations are now able to sponsor Ukrainians (who were residing in Ukraine as of February 11, 2022) to be paroled into the US through a program called Uniting for Ukraine. The sponsor starts by filing form I-134 online. The sponsor can be anyone in legal status in the US, in parolee status, or beneficiaries of deferred action or DED.

Ukrainians are no longer allowed to seek parole through the land borders from Canada or Mexico without the proper visa or entry authorization through the Uniting for Ukraine program.

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