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10 March 2022

The Ukraine crisis: immigration updates

5 mins

As the crisis in Ukraine develops, our Immigration, Asylum and Nationality team will aim to publish regular updates on government concessions, support, and guidance that is being put in place to help. 

Latest update – the Ukraine Family Scheme

The Home Secretary has informed parliament this morning that Ukrainian nationals with passports can apply under the Ukraine Family Scheme without needing to attend a visa application centre as of Tuesday 15 March 2022. This is another small step in the right direction but there is much to do. We are still waiting for the details of the humanitarian sponsorship scheme which was announced on 1 March 2022. 

Previous updates

The Ukraine Family Scheme – 10 March 2022

The Ukraine Family Scheme has undergone a few updates since it was launched last week, but is not proving of help to many Ukrainians so far. The visa application centre in Lviv has closed, so applications can no longer be made inside Ukraine. The definition of ‘extended family member’ has changed to include a wider pool of relatives. However, applications are not being processed quickly which is very worrying, and the scheme is not open to the family members of Ukrainians working or studying in the UK without indefinite leave to remain (except for those with pre-settled status), meaning many Ukrainians in the UK do not currently fall within the scheme’s remit.

The government has resisted calls to drop the visa requirement for Ukrainians (like the EU has) but is not putting in place arrangements for applications to be processed swiftly. Well over two million people have fled Ukraine. On yesterday’s Radio 4 Today programme, Grant Schapps confirmed that 22,000 applications had been received under the Ukraine Family Scheme, it is shameful that of those, so far only 760 visas had been issued.

We call on the Home Office to respond urgently to the problems with the scheme that have been raised in the media and parliament, and to take steps to ensure the UK offers sanctuary to those in need who have had to flee their homes. According to the news this morning, the Home Secretary will be announcing some changes in parliament today – we hope that those changes will be immediate and effective.

The Ukraine Family Scheme – 4 March 2022

More details have been announced today about applying under the Ukraine Family Scheme which has opened today. The scheme is available to a defined list of family members and extended family members (and their immediate family members) of British nationals, people who are settled here, people with pre-settled status and refugees, and those with humanitarian protection in the UK. See more information here.

The scheme is now open for visa applications (which require a visa application centre appointment in Lviv, Ukraine, Rzeszow, Poland or any country the applicant(s) can travel to safely including Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and France).

The scheme will also be available to those already in the UK with guidance on how to apply to follow.

Government announces further support regarding the Ukraine crisis – 3 March 2022

As the situation in Ukraine continues to worsen, the Home Secretary has, after coming under pressure from politicians and the public, announced some further support extending beyond the concessions put in place last week which were widely acknowledged to be inadequate. 

In a statement to Parliament on 1 March 2022, Priti Patel indicated that the Ukrainian Family Scheme would be established for British nationals and people settled in the UK to bring parents, grandparents, adult offspring, siblings and their family members to the UK. 

The scheme will be free, and successful applicants will be granted 12 months leave to enter the UK initially, with permission to work and access public funds. The scheme is due to come into effect tomorrow, 4 March 2022, but currently it is not clear exactly how applications are to be made. Apparently, applicants should complete an online form and then book and attend an appointment at a visa application centre and wait to be contacted. It is hoped further guidance on the process will be issued on this today.

A second scheme enabling Ukrainians without family ties to the UK to be sponsored to come to the UK was also announced by the Home Secretary on 1 March 2022 with further details to be published soon. 

The concessions (including switching) for Ukrainians already in the UK remain in place.

Sadly, the government has resisted waiving the visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals, but it is hoped that the new, more generous Ukrainian Family Scheme will enable many people fleeing the appalling events in Ukraine to join their relatives in the UK quickly.

Home Office concessions regarding Ukraine – 25 February 2022

In response to recent events in Ukraine, the Home Office (UKVI) has announced some concessions for family members of British citizens who usually live in Ukraine, and also for nationals of Ukraine in the UK. Visit the government website here for more information

If the requirements are met (prospective applicants need to call UKVI and provide information), the visa fee for a family visa will be waived and a temporary location has been arranged in Lviv for biometric enrolment.

Nationals of Ukraine in the UK as visitors can, as a temporary concession, switch into a points based route or a family visa route from within the UK and arrangements have also been put in place for seasonal workers to extend their visas.

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