New visa categories are now available to Ukrainian nationals coming into the UK, in addition to the usual visitor, work and study routes.
These new categories both rely on sponsorship within the UK and in the case of the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine) represent a new form of sponsorship within the UK immigration system.
Outside the UK?
- If you have family in the UK: Ukraine Family Scheme
In summary, this allows Ukrainian national family members of UK settled persons, British nationals and certain other individuals to come to the UK, or stay in the UK. The scheme allows the applicant to live, work and study in the UK, as well as to have access to public funds. The visa lasts up to 3 years. It is free, and there is no immigration health surcharge.
Passport holders will complete an online application and be granted 6 months' leave to enable them to enter the UK and immediately work, study and claim benefits. After they have submitted biometric data in the UK, their leave will be extended to 36 months.
- Applicant requirements
- be applying to join or accompany a UK-based family member; and
- be Ukrainian or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national who is applying to the scheme; and
- have been residing in Ukraine on or immediately prior to 1 January 2022 (including those who have now left Ukraine).
- Family member requirements
The UK-based family member the Ukrainian national is applying to join must be either:
- a British national; or
- someone settled in the UK (e.g. under the EU Settlement Scheme or if they have Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK); or
- someone from the EU, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland or Norway who has pre-settled status and began living in the UK prior to 1 January 2021; or
- someone who has humanitarian protection or refugee status in the UK.
- What is a "family member"?
Family member is defined widely and includes immediate family and extended family members, or the immediate family of an extended family member. Other family members may also be considered in exceptional circumstances.
Evidence of the family relationship should be provided, but if it cannot be provided this should be explained on the application form.
The application process will depend on whether you have a valid or expired Ukrainian international passport with a formal extension stamp issued by the Ukrainian government.
(i) Valid or expired Ukrainian international passport holders (with formal extension stamp)
If you hold a valid Ukrainian international passport or an expired Ukrainian international passport with a formal extension stamp issued by the Ukrainian government, and you are outside the UK, there will no longer be a requirement for you to provide your biometric information when you are overseas or attend an in-person appointment at a Visa Application Centre in order to apply to the Ukraine Family Scheme. You can complete your application entirely online (including providing supporting documents), then have your biometric data taken when you are in the UK. You will only need to attend a Visa Application Centre to have a photograph and fingerprints taken if you are applying without a passport.
You will be required to upload a copy of the photo page of your Ukrainian international passport. If the passport has expired, upload a copy of the page with the formal extension stamp.
If you have them, provide documents to show:
- you were residing in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022; and
- your relationship to the UK-based family member.
You can upload the documents online via the application portal.
Once the application has been processed, you will receive an official permission letter confirming you can travel to the UK from UK Visas and Immigration. You should wait to receive the official permission letter before travelling to the UK.
When you show the letter at the UK border, your passport will be endorsed with a 6-month entry stamp.
You will be required to submit your biometrics (using this form to start the process) within 6 months of your arrival in the UK in order to extend your stay for up to 3 years. If you do this, you will be issued with a biometric residence permit.
(ii) Ukrainian nationals who do not hold a valid or expired Ukrainian international passport holders (with formal extension stamp):
Ukrainian nationals who do not hold a valid or expired Ukrainian international passport holders (with formal extension stamp) must attend a Visa Application Centre to provide their biometric information. The Visa Application Centres in Ukraine are closed. but there is a temporary Visa Application Centres for people applying for the scheme in Rzeszow in Poland.
At the time of writing, the following centres are open:
- Budapest (Hungary)
- Chisinau (Moldova)
- Rzeszow (Poland) (NB the Rzesnow centre is exclusively open for Ukraine Scheme visa applications)
- Warsaw (Poland)
- Bucharest (Romania)
The UK Government has said it will endeavour to make decisions quickly and applications will be prioritised, although it has not committed to a timeframe.
- Applicant requirements
- If you do not have family in the UK: Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine)
You can apply for a visa under the Homes for Ukraine scheme online. Ukrainian nationals and their immediate family members can come to the UK if they have a named sponsor. Under the scheme, applicants will be granted leave to remain in the UK for up to 3 years, and will be able to access public funds and live, study and work in the UK.
- be a Ukrainian national or the immediate family member of such a person;
- have been resident in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022 (including those who have now left Ukraine);
- currently be outside the UK; and
- have a UK-based sponsor who meets the eligibility criteria for the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.
An immediate family member can be one of the following:
- an unmarried partner (you must have been living together in a relationship for at least 2 years);
- spouse or civil partner;
- parent (if you are under 18);
- fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner; or
- child who is under 18.
If the sponsor is located in the Isle of Man, Jersey or the Bailiwick of Guernsey, they need to check the details of the scheme in their jurisdiction.
- You or a sponsor can apply by completing a single form.
- The application is free. You do not need to attend a Visa Application Centre to give biometric information if you hold a valid Ukrainian international passport or you have an expired Ukrainian international passport with a formal extension stamp. You will need to upload a copy of the photo page of your valid or expired Ukrainian international passport (upload a copy of the page where the formal extension stamp has been issued if you have an expired Ukrainian international passport).
- There is no requirement for children under the age of 5, and who do not hold a valid Ukrainian international passport, to have their fingerprints taken. However, they will need to attend a VAC appointment.
- You will need to provide documents to show your UK based sponsor's identity e.g. a passport or driving licence, and if possible, documents to evidence you were residing in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022.
- You will need to book and attend a Visa Application Centre appointment if you do not hold a valid Ukrainian international passport.
- Once the application has been processed, you will receive an official permission letter confirming you can travel to the UK from UK Visas and Immigration. You should wait to receive the official permission letter before travelling to the UK.
- When you show the letter at the UK border, your passport will be endorsed with a 6 month entry stamp.
- You will be required to submit your biometrics within 6 months of your arrival in the UK in order to extend your stay for up to 3 years. If you do this, you will be issued with a biometric residence permit. The form you need to provide biometric information will be available in due course.
How an individual or an organisation can apply to be a sponsor
You can register your interest as an individual or an organisation online.
- Visitor visa
Ukrainian nationals can apply to come to the UK for up to 6 months as a visitor. The usual requirements for coming to the UK as a visitor have not been waived – such requirements include not having an intention to stay in the UK beyond the period of the visitor visa. As such, it may be difficult for Ukrainian nationals to apply under the route.
If you are in the UK due to having a visitor visa, and you are unable to return to Ukraine, you may be able to apply to switch to another visa or apply under the Ukraine Extension Scheme (see below), if you meet the requirements.
- Other options?
In most circumstances, the Ukrainian Family Scheme will be the best option for applicants outside the UK with family in the UK. This is because decisions should be made more quickly. We recommend seeking advice even if you consider that you might not meet all of the above requirements as there is a level of discretion in some of the above requirements.
However, if applicants will not meet the above requirements, there are other options which we can assist you with.
These include applying for an EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit (if your family member has settled status under the EU settlement scheme) or applying for another type of visa to enter the UK. The advantage of applying via other routes is that they may lead to settlement in the UK, although it can take three months to receive a decision which is unlikely to be an option for most applicants.
We can advise applicants further on these options depending on their individual situation.
Already in the UK?
Ukrainians who are on work, study or visit visas in the UK will have their visas temporarily extended or be able to switch to different visa routes or for those on seasonal work visas to have their leave temporarily extended. They will be able to do this even where the UK's Immigration Rules would not normally allow them to do so.
Applying for the Ukraine Family Scheme within the UK
If you are in the UK, you must apply online for the Ukraine Family Scheme, then book and attend an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services service point.
Ukraine Extension Scheme
From 3 May 2022 onwards, you can apply to the Ukraine Extension Scheme if:
- you are a Ukrainian national; and
- you had permission to stay in the UK on or before 18 March 2022, unless you were in the UK with permission to enter or stay immediately before 1 January but that permission has since expired.
If your partner and children are already in the UK as your 'dependants', they can also apply.
Under the Ukraine Extension Scheme, you will be granted permission to stay for the shorter of either 36 months or a period which would mean the applicant has been granted a maximum of 36 months under the Ukraine Family Scheme, Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme and the Ukraine Extension Scheme.
Practical points for Ukraine scheme applications
For both the Homes for Ukraine and the Ukraine Family Scheme, there are common concessions made for applicants:
- If your journey starts in Ukraine, there is no need to complete a passenger locator form or take COVID tests to enter the UK.
- There are no TB testing requirements.
- The schemes are free for applicants, with no application fee, immigration health surcharge or biometric enrolment fee.
- Applicants will be allowed to work, study, rent private accommodation, use the NHS, access English language tuition and claim benefits in the UK.
There is a Home Office free 24/7 helpline on +44 808 164 8810 (0808 164 8810 from within the UK) for help with any questions about visa options for Ukrainian nationals.
Addleshaw Goddard LLP are one of the firms providing pro bono advice for Ukrainian nationals as part of the Ukraine Advice Project UK. To get in touch in relation to this initiative, please email your query to email@example.com
*Please note that the information in this article is accurate at the time of publishing but the situation is fast moving and we recommend that applicants check the GOV UK pages or contact us for guidance at the time of making an application*.
Please contact us if you would like assistance in relation to any of the above options.