Sibling and nieces of Ukrainian man living in Dubuque denied emergency visas

A Ukrainian couple from Dubuque shares about the issues they've faced while trying to get an emergency visa to bring loved ones to the U.S. from Ukraine.
Published: Mar. 25, 2022 at 8:52 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - A Ukrainian couple living in Dubuque is sharing just some of the issues they have faced while trying to get an emergency visa to bring some of their family to the U.S. from Ukraine.

Yaroslav Nakonechnyy and Ulyana Stebelska said watching the Russian invasion in their home country came as a shock. They were especially worried because Nakonechnyy’s sister’s family was still in Ukraine. He told TV9 his sister refused to leave her husband behind, who could not leave Ukraine per national order.

”It took me to convince her to leave Ukraine by flying over there and meet her,” he mentioned.

Nakonechnyy met his sister and two nieces in Poland. They first applied for a regular tourist visa, but the appointment with the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw was not until May. So they applied for an emergency visa. They got in a week after applying and had to pay $190 per family member, which for them meant $570.

”Then, on the day of the appointment, they went to the embassy, had to wait in line for two hours with two kids, almost two and a half hours in freezing weather,” Stebelska, who was helping them back from the U.S., said. ”We were positive she was going to get the visa because, come on, there is war going on over there and he flew to bring her in with the kids.”

Their request, however, was denied. The reason officials gave them was that Nakonechnyy’s sister could not provide enough evidence to prove that she is not a potential immigrant. The couple said the reasoning made no sense.

“She will go back because her husband is behind,” they mentioned. “She is not going to go to a strange country and start a new life there without her husband. So basically what she said is she isnot going to apply for any asylum status or refugee status because that process takes years here.”

Nakonechnyy had to fly back to the U.S. without his sister and nieces and is now paying for an apartment for them four hours away from Warsaw. He said they share that apartment with multiple other families.

Nakonechnyy said the Ukrainians he met while in Poland who got visas were those who were flying to the U.S. to be with parents or children. But those that were coming home to siblings, did not.

Now the couple is speaking up, hoping the government will make it easier to bring families together.

”After going through all of that horror of leaving everything behind and fleeing for your life, the least we can do is to take them in but, unfortunately, there are these obstacles that did not allow us to do that,” Stebelska said. “There are many women, with children, that are sitting in Poland and other countries right now that have brothers here that would like to come and stay with their relatives instead of being on their own.”

Nakonechnyy told TV9 he met with Governor Kim Reynolds and Senator Joni Ernst last week and has been in communication with both Congresswoman Ashley Hinson’s and Senator Chuck Grassley’s teams. He said the Iowa delegation explained they cannot do much for them because of current laws in place.

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