Guide to Ukrainian visas
There are currently two key in country concessions in place and one out of country concession. We will likely see further announcements in the coming days, weeks and months.
1. Family route
The Government is calling this the humanitarian route but this is a misnomer, this is a route for the Ukrainian family members of British nationals and Ukrainians settled in the UK.
The Government has waived some of the eligibility criteria, for example the English language requirement, minimum income requirement, and the requirement to take a TB test. It has not waived identity and security checks.
The Government has announced a fee waiver for this type of visa.
Originally this route applied to the following family members:
- a spouse or civil partner
- an unmarried partner
- a parent if the child is under the age of 18
- a child under the age of 18
- an adult relative cared for due to a medical condition
As of 1 March 2022, the Government has included the following family members in the route:
- Children over the age of 18 years
New concessions which expand the scope for who can be a family member under the Rules were also announced 10 March 2022. Uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews of Ukrainian nationals or British citizens living in the UK will now be able to apply to join their family members under the family route.
Controversially, the Government has recently announced that people will need to demonstrate residence in Ukraine on or before 1 January 2022 to qualify to this scheme.
From Tuesday 15 March 2022, eligible Ukrainian applicants with a passport will not be required to attend a visa application centre to enrol their biometric information from overseas when making applications under the Ukraine Family Scheme. Instead, successful applicants will receive a notification that they are ‘eligible for the scheme and can come to the UK’.
Border Force, airlines and carriers will be informed that, from 15 March 2022, individuals with valid Ukrainian passports who have been accepted under the Ukraine Family Scheme will be issued with a letter granting them permission to travel, rather than a UK visa.
On arrival in the UK, the individual should present their letter to Border Force who will endorse their passport with a six-month entry stamp that evidences their right to work, study and claim benefits in the UK.
Once in the UK, individuals will be able to make an application to extend their stay (for up to 36 months) and be issued with secure evidence of status. The applicant will then be required to enrol their biometric information in the UK.
People securing visas on this route will have an unfettered right to work. A right to work check will need to be carried out by UK employers against the endorsement in the applicant’s passport. A repeat check will be required prior to the expiry of the 6-month entry visa. It is anticipated that the 36 months leave to remain will be issued as digital status.
2. Concessions for Ukrainians living in the UK
The Home Office has agreed temporary concessions to support Ukrainian nationals currently in the UK who are now unable to return before their existing visa expires. This only applies to Ukrainian nationals who either entered the UK prior to 24 February 2022 or had made an entry clearance application prior to that date and subsequently arrive in the UK using that entry clearance.
These concessions will assist Ukrainian nationals in extending their stay in the UK without having to leave and re-apply from overseas.
Ukrainian nationals who are in the UK may be able to extend their visa even if their visa category would not normally permit an in-country switch.
Of relevance, this includes Ukrainians who hold visit visas who are now eligible to apply for a Skilled Worker visa from within the UK, whereas they would have previously been required to leave the UK and apply from their home country.
These visa applicants will still need to meet the requirements of the Rules as a Skilled Worker. The same fees apply. They will only be permitted to work in accordance with their Skilled Worker visa and will be subject to the usual skill and salary threshold.
Visitor visa holders are not permitted to take employment in the UK.
It is anticipated only small numbers of people will be able to benefit from this concession, unless the cut off date of 24 February is removed or amended.
Employers will need to comply with the usual sponsorship duties for Ukrainian nationals switching to Skilled Worker and will need to undertake the usual right to work checks for prospective employees.
Additional provisions have been announced for seasonal workers. They will automatically have their visas extended until 31 December 2022. Seasonal workers who arrived under the temporary concessions put in place for butchers and Large Goods Vehicle Drivers will also be able to apply to switch their visas into the Skilled Worker category. This will provide Ukrainian workers with a route to settlement in the UK.
3. Visa Concessions for Ukrainians outside the UK
The Home office has also announced further measures aimed at protecting Ukrainian nationals currently outside the UK.
The new ‘Humanitarian Protection Pathway’ route announced on 1 March 2022 will allow Ukrainian nationals who do not have family ties in the UK to be sponsored by individuals, charities, and community groups in the UK.
Sponsors must be able to provide housing and integration support.
It is understood the Home Office has been working with local authorities and development organisations to scope out the scheme.
On 14 March, the Government announced details of this new scheme to welcome Ukrainian nationals and their immediate family to the UK. The scheme will match people, charities, businesses, and community groups to Ukrainians who do not already have established family in the country, thereby allowing those who would not otherwise qualify under existing routes to come the UK.
The scheme will officially open on 18 March 2022. Phase One of the scheme will allow sponsors to offer support to a Ukrainian national or Ukrainian family who they know. The Ukrainian national will need apply with theirs and their sponsor’s details.
Sponsors will be required to provide free accommodation and integration support to Ukrainians for a minimum of 6 months and will receive a monthly payment of £350. This payment will be made for maximum period of 12 months. There is no obligation on a sponsor to provide meals or cover the costs of any other living expenses, though many will wish to do so.
To qualify under this route, Ukrainian nationals must prove they were resident in Ukraine prior to 1 January 2022. If successful, a 3-year visa will be granted and applicants will be able to access healthcare, benefits, employment support, education, and English language tuition in the UK.
Security and safeguarding checks will be carried out on all applicants and sponsors.
There will be no limit to the number of Ukrainians who can apply through this route and in a clear relaxation of the standard Immigration Rules, successful applicants will both be able to work and access public funds. It is anticipated between 100,000 – 200,000 Ukrainian nationals will either remain in or enter the UK as a result of these concession.
An employee seeking to employ a person who has arrived in the UK on this scheme will need to check their right to work in the usual way.
4. Visa applications from overseas.
In addition to the concessions, the standard visa routes for entry are available to Ukrainian nationals. These include the Skilled Worker route. Of relevance to Ukrainian nationals with specialist IT skills will be the shortage occupation route for digitech specialists which provides an steamlined route to secure a Skilled Worker visa. To consider this route, Ukrainian nationals will need a UK based employer who has a genuine vacancy. Given the skills shortages across the sector, these roles are available in the UK.
All mid to high skill level roles are eligible for sponsorship, but only some are identified as being shortage occupations.
A UK employer considering recruiting a Ukrainian national under the standard Skilled Worker scheme will be subject to all the usual right to work compliance and sponsorship compliance duties.
The challenge however is the logistical challenges entailed in making a visa application in the current circumstances. Not only are Ukrainian nationals currently expected to meet all the entry requirements of this route, including providing identity documents and evidence of their English language ability, but there are significant problems with visa processing.
The Kyiv centre was forced to close due to heavy shelling. The temporary visa centre which had been set up in Lviv, in the west of the country has also closed.
The Home Office has set up a centre in Rzeszow, Poland, near the Ukrainian border, but this centre is reportedly inundated and is unable to cope with the numbers of applications being submitted.
The UK Government has opened a visa processing centre in Calais to assist in dealing with the influx of applications, but this is under resourced. The Government has been criticised for being unprepared to relax the visa requirements further and slow to respond to the crisis.
The Home Office has announced changes, including accepting digital enrolment of biometrics where possible and that it has deployed additional resources to support emergency applications for Ukrainian nationals, under the concessions outlined above. This does however mean that standard visa applications for work and study visas have been delayed, especially as priority and super priority services for all study and work applications, made globally, have been suspended.
5. Surrogate mothers
The Home Office has confirmed it will give UK visas to Ukrainian surrogate mothers and their families. Policy details are yet to be announced but this scheme will be based on the Family Members Scheme. Pregnant surrogate mothers and their immediate family members will be granted a three-year visa to live in the UK with access to public funds and employment. This will be a grant made outside the Immigration Rules. Provision will also be made for babies born outside the UK to Ukrainian surrogate mothers. The application will be free to make and there will be no Immigration Health Surcharge. Mothers and babies will have access to NHS care in the UK.
6. Bringing personal items and pets to the UK
The Government has recently issued guidance on bringing personal items, cash and restricted items to the UK; Bringing personal items to the UK as a Ukrainian refugee – GOV.UK
To find out about bringing a pet to the UK, Ukrainian nationals or their sponsors are advised to call 03000 200 301 and press 2 to speak to an adviser, or to email: email@example.com.
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
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