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UK visa support for Ukrainian nationals

UK visa support for Ukrainian nationals

Ukraine is on the UK visa national list and as a result, nationals of Ukraine must have a visa before they enter the UK.  As the conflict situation in Ukraine unfolds, there have been calls to abolish the visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals – an approach already in place for many countries across the world including the European Union (EU) which is allowing nationals of Ukraine to be granted a temporary residence permit as per the Temporary Protection Directive permitting eligible individuals the right to live and work in the 27-nation bloc for at least one year (renewable for an additional two years).

At the time of writing, more than 2 million people have fled the war in Ukraine.  The UK Government have confirmed that there will be two main routes available for refugees from the war: the Ukraine Family Scheme visa route and the Local Sponsorship Scheme for Ukraine.

The Ukraine Family Scheme

The Ukraine Family Scheme visa route was introduced by the Home Office on 4 March 2022 and is a route for those who are Ukrainian nationals, or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national, who are seeking to join their UK-based family member and can prove that they have been resident in Ukraine prior to 1 January 2022.  This includes those who have now left Ukraine.

Who can act as a UK-based family member?

The Home Office have defined a UK based family member as: -

  • A British national;
  • Someone settled in the UK - for example, the individual has Indefinite Leave to Remain, or holds Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme or alternative proof of permanent residence in the UK;
  • A national of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland who has obtained pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme and can prove that they have started living in the UK before 1 January 2021; or
  • Someone with refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK

The applicant must provide evidence that their UK-based family member is one of the following: -

  • an immediate family member – for example, a spouse or civil partner, a child who is under 18; parent (if you are under 18); etc.;
  • an extended family member – for example, a parent (if you are over 18), a child who is over 18; grandparent; sibling; aunt or uncle; etc.; or
  • an immediate family member of an extended family member.

The applicant will be required to prove their relationship to the UK-based family member - for example, marriage and birth certificates.  The guidance confirms where evidence of the relationship cannot be provided, the applicant will be expected to provide a full explanation of why the documentary evidence cannot be provided.

Are there any application fees and if granted, what is the length of the visa?

The application for this scheme is free and the applicant will not be expected to pay any Immigration Health Surcharge for this application.  Should the visa application be successful, the applicant will be granted a visa for the period of leave of up to three years in the UK.

How to apply for a visa under this scheme?

Currently, applications under this route can only be made by those applying from outside the UK.  It is expected that Ukrainian nationals will be able to apply from inside the UK as the Home Office have confirmed that the guidance on how to apply to this scheme from inside the UK will be made available soon.

At the time of writing, you will need to apply online and then book and attend an appointment at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) where you will have your photograph and fingerprints (biometrics) taken as part of your application, unless you are under the age of 5, in which case the child will still need to attend the VAC but only to have their digital photograph taken.

The Home Office have confirmed that the VAC in Kyiv, Ukraine is closed, with a temporary VAC currently open for people applying for the Ukraine Family Scheme in Rzeszow, Poland.  Currently, there are VACs operating throughout Europe including:

  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Chisinau, Moldova
  • Warsaw, Poland
  • Bucharest, Romania
  • Paris, France

Local Sponsorship Scheme for Ukraine

The UK government has announced plans for a new sponsored humanitarian visa route called the Local Sponsorship Scheme which will allow Ukrainian nationals without any family ties to enter the UK.  The UK Government has confirmed that there will be no limit on this scheme and will allow communities, private sponsors or local authorities to act as sponsors to bring those forced to flee Ukraine to the UK.

However, this sponsorship scheme is not currently open – despite the Home Office announcing the scheme on 1 March 2022.  We do not know when this scheme will be open to applications or what the eligibility requirements will be for those in the UK seeking to become a sponsor and applicants seeking to be sponsored.

Ukrainian nationals in the UK

The Home Office have announced concessions for Ukrainian nationals already in the UK with temporary visas which will enable them to extend their stay by extending their current visa or switching to another immigration route, where eligible.

Holders of the UK Standard Visitor visa

Ukrainian nationals currently in the UK on a visitor visa who are unable to return to Ukraine will be permitted to apply to switch to another visa.  This would not have ordinarily been available to visitor visa holders.  The Home Office will expect the applicant to meet the requirements of that immigration route applied for.

Holders of a UK visa under the Skilled Worker route or a Student Visa

If you are a Ukrainian national currently resident in the UK as the holder of a Skilled Worker visa or a Student visa that is due to expire, the Home Office have confirmed that the applicant can apply to extend their visa or apply for settlement, where applicable, or if you are a Student switch to a Graduate visa or another type of visa, provided the Immigration Rules for the application can be met.

Holders of a UK Seasonal Workers’ visa

The Government guidance confirms that nationals of Ukraine who hold a Seasonal Workers’ visa can extend their visa to 31 December 2022 – or potentially apply for the Skilled Worker visa route, subject to meeting the Immigration Rules.

Ukrainian nationals eligible for an extension must continue working in a job permitted by the Seasonal Worker route, with your sponsor - the same Scheme Operator.  This includes Ukrainian nationals’ resident in the UK under the following routes: -

  • an HGV driver visa (on the Seasonal Work route); or
  • a Pork Butcher visa (on the Seasonal Work route).

UK employers who require further information and advice in respect of Ukrainian national employees sponsored under the Skilled Worker or under the Seasonal Workers’ Visa should contact our specialist Immigration team on 03330 430350 for further information and advice.

The situation in Ukraine is rapidly changing and as such, the information provided on this page should be treated as being up-to-date at the point of publication.  The Home Office is expected to provide further updates and information on the UK visa support available for Ukraine nationals and in particular, clarification and guidance on the Local Sponsorship Scheme for Ukraine, which has not yet been made available to the applicants.

If you are a Ukrainian national currently residing in the UK or a UK-based family member seeking to ascertain the immigration options available for Ukrainian family members who have fled or are seeking to flee Ukraine, please contact our specialist Immigration team on 03330 430350.

About the author

Gurjit Pall
Gurjit Pall

Gurjit Pall

Legal Director

Immigration & Visas

For more information, contact Gurjit Pall or any member of the Immigration & Visas team on +44 131 225 8705.