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UK Ukraine immigration assistance

Two new immigration schemes were announced by the UK government offering support to nationals fleeing the war in Ukraine.

By mid-March 2022, almost 3 million Ukrainians had fled to seek refuge in other countries. The UK has put in place some concessions and schemes to make it easier for Ukrainian nationals to obtain a visa for the UK and to seek protection here.

Ukraine Family Scheme

The Ukraine Family Scheme opened on 4 March to allow family members of British nationals, UK settled persons and certain others to come to or stay in the UK. Initially for close family members only, it was expanded to include:

  • immediate family members;
  • extended family members; and
  • immediate family members of extended family members.

Since 15 March 2022, Ukrainian nationals with a valid Ukrainian passport do not need to attend a biometric appointment at a Visa Application Centre (VAC). When they arrive in the UK, they will be given an initial 6-month entry stamp in their passport to confirm that they have a right to work, study and claim benefits in the UK. They can then submit a further application to extend their visa for up to 3 years.

Ukrainian nationals who do not have a valid Ukrainian international passport need to attend a biometric appointment at a VAC when applying from outside the UK.

Applications as visitors, or on a different type of visa, as long as they meet the requirements of the scheme, can also be submitted.

Application is free and there is no requirement to pay the immigration health surcharge or biometric enrolment fee for this scheme.

Homes for Ukraine Scheme

On 14 March, the launch of the Homes for Ukraine scheme was announced. This scheme will allow sponsors, including individuals, charities, private sponsors, businesses, and community groups, to volunteer accommodation for Ukrainian refugees.

It is not necessary for any Ukrainian nationals or their family members to have any family or pre-existing links to the UK for them to be eligible to apply for sponsorship under the scheme.

The scheme opened on 18 March, with the following requirements:

  • applicants must be Ukrainian nationals or their immediate family members, resident in Ukraine before 1 January 2022.
  • registered sponsors must be able to offer rent-free accommodation for a minimum of 6 months.
  • security checks must be carried out on both the applicants and the sponsors; and
  • local authorities must carry out checks on the accommodation being offered to confirm its suitability.

Ukrainian nationals who are sponsored under this scheme will be issued with a 3-year visa. They will have permission to live and work in the UK and have access to the NHS, benefits, employment support, education, and English language tuition if required.

Sponsors will get a “thank you” payment of £350 per month per residential address for up to 12 months.

Other options

If the above schemes are not suitable, individuals may wish to seek legal advice on whether any other applications may be appropriate, such as making an application to visit, work, study or join family in the UK in the normal way. Alternatively, it may be possible to apply for refugee status or humanitarian protection.

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