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There’s a new Ukrainian law that could help hundreds of ‘guest workers’

KIEV, Ukraine —

Kiev, Charya says, no longer has to keep two identities.

And news this week that the United States is considering letting Ukrainians come here to work as security specialists could mean that Ukrainians like Charya can finally join their Ukrainian family members who work in the U.S.

“After the Ukraine government decided to join the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, people were expecting to gain citizenship. But that didn’t happen,” Charya, a 74-year-old pensioner, said.

Kiev is Ukraine’s most populous city. Its sprawling district is home to immigrants of Russian descent, as well as Ukrainian émigrés. And Charya is one of the city’s young, male engineers, some of whom graduate from universities in Kiev and work on highway maintenance projects here.

Charya has spent his life in the U.S. For the last six years, he has worked for one of Kiev’s power companies. When he started working for an American company, it gave him a social security number, which allowed him to obtain Ukrainian citizenship.

“But now, I can just go there and help,” he said.

Ukrainian politicians from a host of parties hope the U.S. will eventually take “guest workers,” or modern Ukrainians who work here.

Yanis Arslanian, the owner of a plumbing and heating company, says the law could help the Ukrainian company he runs keep up with its competitors.

“If they are working like Americans, why should our workforce be stuck with a second-rate quality of services,” he said.

Just a handful of parliamentarians have formally proposed the guest workers’ law, so it is not a done deal. Congress has also not yet said whether it will reauthorize a large portion of U.S. support for Ukraine, which is set to expire by the end of the year. It also has been set back by unresolved legal disputes about western Ukraine.

But Charya said Ukrainian politicians should not be discouraged. He used to see as many as two potential successors every day for the seat in Parliament held by his homeland’s previous leader, Viktor Yanukovych.

“I’m retired, and I’m going back to work,” he said.