New federal program helps Americans bring Ukrainians to US through sponsorship

LINCOLN COUNTY, S.C. — There’s a new safe haven for families fleeing the war in Ukraine right here in the United States.

A new federal program called “Uniting for Ukraine” allows American citizens to sponsor Ukrainians wishing to relocate to the U.S.

A young mother now living in Lincoln County told Channel 9′s Allison Latos how she feared for the safety of herself and her 10-year-old son.

“Terrifying. Terrifying. Absolutely horrifying,” Alina Matvieieva said. “It was hard to put into words what I was feeling.”

Matvieieva is grateful that she can now watch her son, Valerii, eat a bowl of cereal safely without running for cover from airstrikes or bombs.

They’ve been in Lincoln County barely more than a week, and she said their emotions are still raw.

“I could hear the explosions, bombings and shootings,” Matvieieva said. “It was terrifying.”

They took a train from Ukraine to Poland to escape the worn-torn country. Matvieieva said finding a home in the U.S. was challenging and dangerous.

“The only way to get here quickly was to fly to Canada or Mexico and apply for parole at the border,” said Ben Snyder, an immigration attorney. “There are a lot of problems with human smugglers.”

There’s now a new path.

The Biden Administration launched Uniting for Ukraine in late April. It allows Americans to sponsor families and bring them stateside.

“To show they’re willing to take care of someone, at least until they can get on their own two feet,” Snyder said.

Several years ago, sponsor Shad Kayser and his wife adopted Matvieieva’s little sister.

Alina Matvieieva was too old to be eligible for adoption, but the Kaysers kept in touch with her.

“Two days into the war, the gentleman who did our adoptions was assassinated in Kiev,” Kayser said. “That’s when it became real.”

The Kaysers didn’t hesitate to help their adoptive daughter’s biological sister and nephew when the program started.

“(Alina’s) part of our family,” Kayser said. “It’s just like having an adult daughter.”

They hope other Americans will open their homes to offer a fresh start and a safer future of Ukrainians.

Through the program, new arrivals obtain work visas and stay in the U.S. for two years.

The International House is holding an information session on the program starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

To learn more about the federal program, click here.

(WATCH BELOW: Charlotte community reacts to possible war crimes in Ukraine)