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Ukrainian Asylum Seekers In The UK: Legal Assistance

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a number of Ukrainian nationals and their immediate family members are choosing to seek asylum in the UK. For many refugees from Ukraine, the UK is perceived as a safe and stable country in which to reside. It offers a national health service, numerous job opportunities and, in many cases, family ties.

However, the process of claiming asylum in the UK has many stages and can be complicated and confusing. Without the right assistance, the process is often very difficult to navigate. Contact Newcastle Immigration Lawyers today at +441913038965 to learn more about the UK asylum application process and how we can help with your specific case.

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    Ukrainian Asylum Seekers in the UK: Overview

    Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many Ukrainians and their close family members have fled to the UK. In response to this ongoing conflict, the UK has opened up a number of visa routes through which Ukrainians and their immediate family can legally enter the UK.

    In order to enter the UK as a Ukrainian national, you are likely to require a visa. There are a number of UK visa options for Ukrainians who have fled Ukraine, including the Ukraine Family Scheme, the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme, and the Ukraine Extension Scheme.

    Upon arriving in the UK, Ukrainian nationals and their close family members may also choose to claim asylum. The process for doing so is outlined in this article.

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      Ukrainian Asylum Seekers In The UK: How To Claim Asylum

      For Ukrainian nationals fleeing the war in Ukraine, the UK offers a number of potential options. One of these is applying for asylum within the UK itself.

      The process of applying for asylum in the UK has a number of stages. These are as follows:

      • You will first attend a ‘screening’. This is an initial meeting with an immigration officer in which your identity and nationality will be confirmed. You will also be asked to give your reasons for claiming asylum. Your case will then be reviewed by the UK Home Office.
      • After your screening, you will receive either an asylum registration card (ARC), or an appointment letter which explains your next steps. Your ARC can be used to show your identity, whether you have permission to work, and to access health and education services.
      • You may also receive a questionnaire from the Home Office so that more information can be collected on your case. If so, you should make sure to fill it in and return it by the deadline which you are given.
      • In some cases, you may also be assigned a UK caseworker. They will answer any questions which you might have and will ultimately be responsible for making a decision on your case.
      • Some applicants are also called to a follow – up asylum interview. Asylum interviews are generally requested when you have not yet provided enough information for a decision to be made on your case. You should expect to attend this interview over video call.
      • Finally, the Home Office will notify you of their decision. There are 3 main decisions which you might receive: refused permission to stay, granted permission to stay with either refugee status or humanitarian protection, or granted permission to stay for other reasons. For example, it may be that you are eligible for one of the UK’s visa schemes, which are outlined later in the article.

      What Is The Screening Process Like?

      Attending a screening with an immigration officer is the first stage of registering your asylum claim in the UK.

      If you register your claim immediately upon arrival in the UK, your screening will take place at the UK border. If you have just flown to the UK from Ukraine, for example, you will be able to register your asylum claim upon arrival. When you arrive in the UK, you will need to inform a Border Force officer that you wish to claim asylum. They will then register you, after which you will have your screening.

      However, you can also claim asylum after your arrival in the UK if you later become eligible to do so. If you wish to claim asylum whilst already in the UK, you will need to call the asylum intake unit. They will return your call and ask for the details of you and your family. You will also be asked if you require housing assistance. This initial call generally takes around 30 minutes, and a screening appointment will then be made for you.

      Note that, if you do not have accommodation, you will not be required to make a screening appointment in advance. You can call the asylum intake unit and receive instructions on heading directly to an asylum registration location. However, if you do not have an appointment booked then it is possible that you will not be able to be seen upon arrival and will be asked to return again at a future point.

      At your screening, you should expect to:

      • Have your photograph taken
      • Have your fingerprints taken
      • Have an interview in which your identity and nationality are verified
      • Give your reasons for claiming asylum
      • Provide all recommended documents (as listed later in the article)
      • Give details of any medication which you or your dependent(s) are taking

      Interpreters are also available, if required.

      Any dependents who are also part of your claim should attend the screening with you.

      What Documents Will I Need?

      When applying for asylum in the UK, you will ideally need to provide the following documents:

      • Passport and / or any other travel documents in your possession
      • Identification documents, such as birth certificate, marriage certificate, and school records (as applicable)
      • Any additional documents which you believe may support your application

      However, it is understood that you may not have access to all of these recommended documents, for example if you left Ukraine in a hurry or were unable to return to your main Ukraine address before leaving the country. In such circumstances, make sure to provide as many of the requested documents as possible, and to give your reasons for not being in possession of all of the documents.

      If you already live in the UK at the time of your application, you will also need to provide evidence of your UK address. If you live in your own accommodation, rather than with someone else, you will need to provide evidence demonstrating this. The following are common examples of evidence which you might use:

      • Tenancy agreement
      • Household bill
      • Bank statement
      • Housing benefit book
      • Council tax notice

      If you are staying with someone else, rather than in your own accommodation, you will need to provide the following:

      • A letter from the person with whom you’re staying which confirms that you have their permission to stay with them. This letter should be no more than 3 months old
      • Documents which confirm their name and address, as listed above (e.g. bank statement, tenancy agreement, etc.)

      Asylum Claim Is Made: What Happens Next?

      After your screening has taken place, your case will then be reviewed by the Home Office. It is possible that you will be sent to a ‘safe country’ whilst your claim is being processed. Generally, ’safe country’ in this context is understood by the UK government as follows:

      • A country of which you are not a citizen
      • A country in which you will not be in danger
      • A country which will not send you on to a different country in which you would be in danger

      You may also be called to a follow – up interview, if not enough information was provided at your initial screening for a decision to be made. If you are required to attend an interview, you will receive a letter which lists the details.

      You will generally need to attend this interview alone, although interpreters are available, if required.

      In this interview, you will be given the opportunity to explain the nature of the persecution which you have faced and your reasons for believing it would be unsafe for you to return to your home country.

      At this interview, notes will be taken by your caseworker. You will be provided with a copy of these notes, which are known as the ‘interview record’, once the interview has ended.

      Before your interview takes place, you will generally need to send your birth certificate, passport, and national ID card to the Home Office. These should be the original versions of the documents, rather than copies. The equivalent documents should also be sent for any dependents who are also part of your application. If you have any additional evidence which demonstrates the persecution which you have faced (or would face) in Ukraine, this should also be sent to the Home Office.

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        Refugee Status Has Been Granted: What Happens Next?

        If you are granted refugee status, you will be granted permission to reside in the UK for at least 5 years. After you have lived in the UK for 5 years, you will be able to apply for permanent residence. Any dependents who were included in your application will usually also receive a minimum of 5 years permission to stay in the UK and will also be able to apply for permanent residence once that 5 years has passed.

        If you have been living in accommodation which is specifically for asylum seekers, you will be required to move to a new address within 28 days of receiving your new status. Your local council can help you with finding new housing.

        What Are My Rights Once I Receive Refugee Status?

        Upon receiving refugee status, you will receive permission to work in the UK. You will also be able to apply for UK welfare benefits, such as universal credit and housing benefit.  Additionally, you will be able to access public services such as the National Health Service (NHS), schools, universities, and job centres.

        Once you have been granted refugee status, you will also be eligible to apply for a refugee integration loan. It is intended to help you settle into life in the UK. As such, the loan can be used to pay for things like rent, education or training, and items for your household. The loan is interest-free but repayments must be paid regularly.

        A number of charities also provide aid and resources to refugees who are adjusting to life in the UK, such as Refugee Action, the British Red Cross, Migrant Help UK, and Children’s Panel.

        How Long Does the Process Take?

        At present, there is a significant backlog of asylum applications being processed by the Home Office. As such, many Ukrainians are waiting for a number of months in order for their applications to be processed. As of 2023, some applicants have been waiting for over a year for their asylum decision.

        In general, you should expect to be waiting for at least a few months for your asylum application to be processed. In the meantime, you may be eligible for financial aid, which is known as ‘asylum support’. Payments will start after you register your asylum claim.

        In order to ensure that your application is processed as quickly as possible, you should make sure to present as many of the recommended documents as possible during your screening. Additionally, if you are sent a questionnaire or called to a follow-up interview, you should make sure to follow all instructions closely and to provide all of the requested information by the given deadline.

        How Much Does the Application Cost?

        There is no application fee for applying for asylum in the UK. However, you may choose to pay for legal assistance in order to support your application. You may also be eligible for financial assistance whilst you wait for a decision to be made, known as ‘asylum support’. This is generally £47.39 per person a week, although if your accommodation provides food then it will likely be £9.58 instead. A small additional amount is available for pregnant women, babies, and toddlers. Pregnant women or women who gave birth in the last 6 weeks may also be eligible for a one-off maternity payment of £300.

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          Asylum Claim Is Denied: What Can I Do Next?

          If your application is unsuccessful, you will be categorised as having ‘no reason to stay’. You will then be expected to leave the UK. However, you may be able to appeal the decision.

          Appeals should normally be submitted online, using the MyHMCTS service. If you are appealing from within the UK, you will need to submit your appeal within 14 days of the date of your decision. If you are appealing from outside of the UK, however, you will have 28 days from your decision date in which to appeal.

          If your appeal is unsuccessful, you will be expected to leave the UK. You can do so either voluntarily or through force, via deportation. If you choose to leave voluntarily, you will be provided with assistance in leaving.

          What Are My Other Options As A Ukrainian Refugee?

          In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UK government has introduced several visa routes for Ukrainians who have fled Ukraine. If you are a Ukrainian or a close family member of a Ukrainian and it is no longer safe for you to return to Ukraine, there are therefore several UK visa routes which might also be options for you. Applying for one of these routes could act as an alternative to claiming asylum within the UK. These routes are as follows:

          • Ukraine Family Scheme: This scheme is intended for Ukrainians (and their spouse and children) who have close family members living in the UK. In order to be eligible to apply for this scheme, you must have been living in Ukraine up to or immediately before 1st January 2022 (note that this applies even if you have since left Ukraine). The UK-based family member whom you will be joining must fall into one of the following categories:
            • Be a British citizen
            • Have permanent residence in the UK
            • Have refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK
            • Have a form of temporary residence which can eventually lead to permanent residence
          • Ukraine Extension Scheme: This scheme is intended for Ukrainians (and their spouse and children) who had the legal right to live in the UK as of 18th March 2022, or a legal right to live in the UK which ended on 1st January 2022. The scheme allows for such individuals to delay their return to Ukraine by extending their current (or recent) legal status, for up to 3 years.
          • Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine): Under this scheme, approved UK-based sponsors can sponsor a Ukrainian refugee or family. They must demonstrate that they are able to accommodate them for at least 6 months. The Ukrainian(s) being sponsored must have been living in Ukraine up to or immediately before 1st January 2022.

          The Home Office is currently treating applications under these schemes as a matter of priority, and so waiting times for a decision are likely to be significantly shorter than for an asylum decision. As of September 2023, the Home Office was seeking to reduce processing time for these schemes to under 3 weeks. As such, applying for one of these schemes may be a more suitable option for certain individuals.

          You could also consider applying to switch your current visa to a different visa type, for instance switching a Visitor visa to a study or work visa. This would also allow you to extend your stay in the UK, although you would still need to meet the eligibility criteria for the new visa type and to pay any associated application costs. For example, it costs £490 to apply for or switch to a UK Student visa.

          How Our Immigration Solicitors Can Help You Make an Asylum Claim And More

          Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many Ukrainians are interested in seeking asylum within the UK. There are a number of reasons why Ukrainians may choose the UK in particular, including English language proficiency, family ties, or familiarity with UK culture. However, the process of applying for asylum in the UK is long and often confusing. Without the correct legal advice, the asylum system can be alienating and difficult to navigate.

          Newcastle Immigration Lawyers is able to provide assistance on a range of services. These include asylum applications, asylum appeals, detained casework, bail (SoS application and tribunal), bail renewal, fresh claims, permission to work applications, travel documents, help with lost, stolen, or incorrect biometric residence permits, family reunion applications (per applicant), family reunion appeals (incl depts), applications for permission to appeal (FTT and UT), and error of law preparation and hearings.

          Contact us today at +441913038965 to receive bespoke legal advice on your own situation.

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                    Frequently Asked Questions

                    There are a number of reasons why Ukrainian refugees may choose to move to the UK. These might include proficiency in the English language, family ties to the UK, and seeing the UK as a safe country in which to reside.

                    The UK also has a number of visa routes which are specifically for Ukrainian refugees, as mentioned in the article. These are the Ukraine Family Scheme, the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine), and the Ukraine Extension Scheme. These visa routes are commonly pursued by Ukrainian refugees.

                    The countries which currently host the most Ukrainian refugees are Russia, Poland, Germany, and Czechia. The UK hosts the 7th highest number of Ukrainian refugees.

                    As of June 2023, the UK had received 115 asylum applications over the previous one year period. Between 24th February 2022 and 3rd May 2022, 458 applications were received by the UK.

                    The reduction in the number of asylum applications is largely due to the several nationality-specific visa options for Ukrainian nationals and their families. In contrast, as of August 2023, there had been 300,319 visa applications under the Ukraine visa schemes, of which 233,771 were successful.