A summary of the visa concessions open to Ukrainian nationals and their family members.
The UK’s initial response to help Ukrainian citizens affected by the Russian military invasion was somewhat underwhelming, limiting the aid offered to immediate family members of British citizens and offering concessions for Ukrainian citizens already in the UK. Now the Home Secretary has announced a second phase of support measures available to those fleeing the conflict.
Details have yet to be announced but what we do know is:
- A temporary visa application centre has been set up in Lviv, following the closure of the Kiev centre. Applicants are also being directed to the visa centres in Poland, Moldova, Romania and Hungary which are all operational and where additional capacity has been created to cope with the additional applications.
- The fee, English language requirement and minimum salary thresholds have been lifted for immediate family members of British nationals. ‘Immediate family members’ includes spouse or civil partner, unmarried partner (you must have been living together in a relationship for at least two years), parents of children who are under the age of 18, child under the age of eighteen or an adult relative you provide care for who lives with you due to a medical condition. All applicants are asked to call UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) on +44 808 164 8810 prior to making an application. The phone line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Ukrainian nationals already in the UK can switch to a points-based or family visa route free of charge. Visas for Ukrainian temporary workers in some sectors are being extended until at least 31 December 2022.
- The Ukrainian Family Scheme allows British citizens and people settled in the UK to bring their parents, grandparents, adult children siblings and immediate family members to the UK. There is no visa fee and they will be granted leave for an initial period of twelve months with permission to work and access public funds. An online application must be completed and applicants must still enrol their biometrics at a biometric centre although the mandatory security checks will be accelerated. Applicants must remain in the country in which they enrolled their biometrics until UKVI contact them. This scheme opens on 4 March 2022.
- There will be a ‘humanitarian sponsorship pathway’ which will allow Ukrainians with no family connections to the UK to be sponsored by private individual sponsors, charities, businesses and community groups. They will also be granted leave for an initial period of twelve months with permission to work and access public funds. There is to be no numerical limit to the number of applicants on this route.
The UKVI aims to process applications within 24 hours of biometric appointments and UKVI caseworkers have been instructed to contact family members of British nationals who usually live in Ukraine to help facilitate travel.
The humanitarian sponsorship pathway is not yet open and at the time of writing there had been no announcement as to when they would open or how an individual or organisation could register as a sponsor. A lot of questions remain unanswered and the government is being urged to information and open these new routes immediately – watch this space.
The recent announcement is certainly welcome news for those affected by the situation in Ukraine but it remains to be seen how these routes will operate in practice and what administrative burdens will fall on sponsors under the humanitarian sponsorship pathway. They also leave a large number of people without an obvious route to get to the UK, such as family members of non-settled Ukrainian nationals, including students and those on the Skilled Worker / Sportsperson routes.
The Home Secretary has said that the government will ‘continue to think robustly and creatively about what more we can all do’ and that they will ‘do what is right’. We will continue to advise you of how the options develop and change.