Ukrainian Workers Arrive in the Bakken
Friday, July 21, 2023
Ukrainians displaced by the country's war with Russia have begun arriving in North Dakota as part of a humanitarian parole program to allow them to work in the United States and earn money to support their families.

Brent Sanford, who's heading up the program for the ND Petroleum Council, said there are 10 Ukrainians now in Dickinson and Minot in various stages of training, and NDPC hopes to place 100 by the end of the year at jobs in the oilfield.

"What we have are thousands of Ukrainians that are interested in doing something to help their families. They've been displaced, their apartments or houses have been bombed," Sanford said. "They've provided the military service required of them, but they're now in refugee status, they're in in other countries in Europe, and what's called 'humanitarian parole' is available to them."

Sanford said NDPC learned of the opportunity from an immigration law firm in Alaska where Ukrainians have been put to work primarily in the fishing industry. The firm had ties to Montana and reached out to North Dakota to see if it might also work in the Bakken. Sanford said there was a lot of interest from oilfield companies, who were willing to try something different to address workforce needs. He said employers will cover the cost of the Ukrainians housing and income, but the biggest challenge is recruiting sponsors to help the immigrants get settled.

"It's really an American citizen vouching for and willing to bring some folks here on humanitarian parole and give that person a shot at putting some income away for their families." Sanford said. "We've seen, in Minot particularly, service clubs have responded with individuals sponsoring Ukrainians, and in Dickinson it's been the company management and ownership that has actually been sponsoring investment really well."

Sanford said there's a lot of immigration paperwork required to bring the Ukrainians to the United States, but he said the Petroleum Council is handling it.

"We will help line up the travel and then once they get here, there's some minor running around, helping people at the airport, helping people navigate to those apartments, helping people find transportation, ride rides to work until they can find their own vehicle," Sanford said. "So it's very similar to what's been happening here for the last 10 to 15 years."

The Petroleum Council had dubbed the project Bakken GROW, which stands for Global Recruitment of Oil Workers. Click here to learn more about the program, or how to become a sponsor.