Ukrainian escaped to U.S. struggles to secure 'protected status'

The impacts of Russia's invasion of Ukraine have reached as far as Western Washington, as recently-arrived Ukrainian refugees struggle to support themselves while seeking temporary immigration protections.

Oleksandr Dovhan, 32, has been seeking ‘temporary protected status’ (TPS) in the U.S., but says the process has been more difficult than it might seem.

TPS was designated for Ukrainians on April 11 and runs through Oct. 19, 2023. 

Dovhan applied a week after the programs opened with the help of a translator. Nearly a month later, through his partner and interpreter, Larisa Ozeryansky, he says he hasn’t heard back. 

"He's tried to establish a line of credit trying to get a car, a job to just support himself, he has no way of earning money," Larisa said. "These things are really challenging and there's a lot of people like him, who are struggling." 

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, it could cost a Ukrainian anywhere between $50 and $545 for anyone between 14 and 65 years old to file for TPS. 

Payments, the website says, are "final and non-refundable regardless of any action we take on your application, petition, or request, or if you withdraw your request." 

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"He has a question like, ‘America is saying, like, they really want Ukrainians to be like supported here and welcome, but how could that be? How can we be here for half a year without any possibility to work?’," Larissa explained.  

Dovhan is one of many Ukrainians waiting for his TPS to go through, which could take at least six months. 

He also applied for a work permit to help get him back on his feet. 

Dovhan left Ukraine on Dec. 31, starting the new year at the airport, headed to Alaska for work. 

He signed a 10-month contract with a fishing company.  

"When he left, there wasn't a war, but now all he knows is what he hears from his friends and on the news, and everything he hears is really terrible," Larissa said.  

As soon as he saw the images of his home under attack, his first instinct was to rush home—but he knew if he left, he wouldn’t be able to get back to the U.S.

"Of course he wants to go home to protect his motherland, but honestly, he's afraid of it, he's not a soldier, and he's not prepared to fight," Larissa said.  

Instead, he wrapped up his winter contract in Alaska and headed for Seattle. 

His family, who lives in West Ukraine, is helping shelter other Ukrainians. It's inspired Dovhan to help from afar, sending material and financial aid to his country.

However, he says he’s not the only one struggling. 

"An hour ago, he met a friend who is having to decide if he's going to go back to Ukraine or not, because his money has run out and he can’t find a way to support himself—he can't get a car, he's been living in a hotel, and he came to meet him to ask for advice about what to do, because he thinks he's going to have to leave," Larissa said. 

It's a harsh reality for the Ukrainian, who says this is a war of politics. 

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"He really does want to have opportunity here, and for this to work out for him," Larissa said. 

Dovhan says he also reached out to several organizations and was only left with more questions than answers. 

FOX 13 News has reached out to them and is waiting to hear back.