ASCB asks Biden to extend visa protection to Ukrainian scientists

With all the heartbreaking news about the invasion of Ukraine, the only glimmer of good news is the warm welcome Ukrainian refugees are receiving when they reach the borders of neighboring nations. Rarely mentioned, however, are the thousands of Ukrainians studying abroad.

There are almost 30,000 Ukrainians here in the United States on nonimmigrant visas, with just over 1,000 studying on science-related visas. These numbers are about half what they were before the pandemic-related travel restrictions. In 2019, almost 60,000 Ukrainians were in the United States on nonimmigrant visas, with 3,000 here to study on F-1, J-1, H1-B, and O-1 visas.

With these students in mind, on March 2, ASCB wrote to President Biden asking that he provide temporary visa protections to STEM students from Ukraine currently studying in the United States. The President can use three programs to extend the visa deadlines for foreign nationals if it would be dangerous for them to return. The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program allows citizens of a particular country to remain in the United States as long as it is unsafe for them to return to their home nation; the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program protects visa holders from deportation; the Special Student Relief (SSR) program can be granted to students with F-1 visas facing “emergent circumstances” including wars and military conflicts at home. These programs are also currently providing protection for citizens from Burma, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Honk Kong, Liberia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen who are in the United States.

On March 3, 2022, the Biden Administration announced that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) had been granted to all Ukrainians here in the United States. This TPS status will allow them to stay in the United States for 18 months. TPS is also renewable if the danger continues in their home nation.

In addition to visa protections, a list of research labs around the world willing to support Ukrainian scientists is being circulated throughout the scientific community. If you want to add your lab to the list or if you are in need of support, access the list at

The ASCB will continue to work with the Biden Administration on behalf of Ukrainian trainees in the United States.

About the Author:

Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: