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Ukraine UK Visa Options For Refugees

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UK has become a common destination for Ukrainian refugees looking for a safe country in which to live. But if you are a Ukrainian national, you are likely to need a visa in order to enter the UK legally.

However, the process of getting a UK visa can be long and complicated. At Newcastle Immigration Lawyers, we have years of experience in providing assistance with cases just like this. Contact us today at +441913038965 or online to learn more about which visa route is right for you.

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    UK Visa Options For Ukrainian Refugees

    In light of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, a number of Ukrainian refugees are fleeing Ukraine and looking for a safe country in which to reside.

    If you are a Ukrainian refugee seeking to move to the UK, you are likely to require a visa in order to do so.

    There are 3 main nationality-specific visa routes which have been introduced for Ukrainian refugees specifically: the Ukraine Family Scheme, the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine), and the Ukraine Extension Scheme.

    If none of these routes work for you, you may also have the option of switching to a new visa type, for example switching from a Visitor visa to a one of the assorted work visas. If none of the visa types are an option for you but you are already in the UK, you could also consider applying for asylum from within the UK itself.

    These different options will be explored throughout the article.

    For advice on seeking visas as a refugee in the UK, speak with our immigration team today. Contact Us

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      Ukraine Family Scheme

      This scheme is intended for Ukrainian refugees who already have family living in the UK. In order to be eligible, you must satisfy the following criteria:

      • Have a UK-based immediate or extended family member who you will be either joining in the UK or accompanying to the UK
      • Be either a Ukrainian citizen or the close family member of a Ukrainian citizen who is themselves applying for the scheme
      • Have resided in Ukraine up to or immediately before 1st January 2022 (this applies even if you have since left Ukraine)

      Note that you can also apply for this scheme if you are already living in the UK.

      The UK-based family member who you will be either joining or accompanying must also meet certain eligibility criteria. They must satisfy one of the following conditions:

      • Have British citizenship
      • Be settled in the UK, e.g. have settled status or permanent residence
      • Have pre – settled status under the EU settlement scheme, and have been living in the UK from before 1st January 2021
      • Have refugee status or humanitarian protection and reside legally in the UK

      For the purposes of this scheme, the following UK-based family members are eligible.

      Immediate Family Members:

      • Spouse
      • Unmarried partner
      • Minor child
      • Parent of a minor
      • Fiance

      Extended Family Members:

      • Parent of an adult
      • Adult child
      • Grandparent
      • Grandchild / your partner’s grandchild
      • Sibling
      • Aunt/uncle
      • Niece/nephew
      • Cousin
      • Mother-in-law/father-in- law
      • Grandparent-in-law
      • Brother-in-law/sister-in-law

      In exceptional circumstances, other family members may also be considered. This will be decided on a case – by – case basis.

      This scheme allows you to stay in the UK for up to 3 years.

      Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine)

      This scheme is intended for Ukrainian nationals who have UK-based sponsors wishing to support their move to the UK. Both people and organisations are allowed to provide sponsorship, and they can provide it to either an individual refugee or to a family.

      In order to be eligible for sponsorship under this scheme, you must:

      • Be Ukrainian or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian who has qualified for this scheme
      • Have resided in Ukraine up to or immediately before 1st January 2022 (even if you have since left Ukraine)
      • Be outside of the UK at the time of application
      • Have an eligible UK-based sponsor. Note that you can also elect the Scottish or Welsh government as your sponsor

      In order to be eligible to be a sponsor under this scheme, you must satisfy the following criteria:

      • Be an adult (i.e. over 18)
      • Reside in the UK
      • Have a minimum of 6 months permission to reside in the UK, which starts from the date of the visa application of the refugee in question
      • Be able to provide either a UK passport, Irish passport or passport card, biometric residence permit, biometric residence card, eVisa ‘share code’, UK photo driving licence, Irish photo driving licence, or a Crown Dependency photo driving licence
      • Provide evidence that you can offer suitable UK accommodation for at least 6 months. In order to be suitable, the accommodation must have appropriate safety features for the age(s) of the refugee(s) in question, e.g. be child-friendly in the case of a family with children
      • Make sure that all adults in your household will pass the relevant security and criminal checks. These checks will include checks of government databases and the Police National Computer, or the Irish equivalent. These checks are carried out in order to protect the safety and well – being of the refugee(s) in question

      Under this scheme, you will be allowed to stay in the UK for up to 3 years.

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        Ukraine Extension Scheme

        The Ukraine extension scheme is intended for both Ukrainians who are already legally residing in the UK and for their close family members. It allows such individuals to extend their stay in the UK beyond the previous deadline. In order to be eligible for the Ukraine Extension Scheme, one of the following must apply:

        • You had permission to be in the UK between the period of 18th March 2022 – 16th May 2023 (note that the permission does not need to cover this entire period)
        • You previously had permission to reside in the UK, and it expired on or after 1st January 2022

        For the purposes of this scheme, eligible close family members are considered to be the following:

        • Spouse
        • Unmarried partner (where you have lived together for at least 2 years)
        • Minor child
        • Parent of a minor

        You will be allowed to stay for up to 3 years.

        Already In The UK On a Visa? Here Are Your Options

        If you are a Ukrainian who is already in the UK on a visa, you have a number of additional options. You can:

        • Apply to the Ukraine Extension Scheme (discussed earlier in this article)
        • Apply to extend your current visa, separately from the Extension Scheme
        • Apply to switch to a different visa

        This is currently an option for Ukrainian refugees even when they are on a visa type which does not ordinarily allow extensions or switches.

        There are a number of UK visa types which Ukrainian citizens can currently hold. These include:

        • Skilled Worker visas
        • Student visas
        • Temporary work visas

        Note that switching or extending your visa may also be an option for you if you currently have a UK visa and have a close Ukrainian family member.

        If you are currently in the UK on a Visitor visa, you can apply to switch to a different visa. However, you must meet the eligibility requirements for the new visa type. If you are not eligible for any of the other visa types, you might consider claiming asylum in the UK. The details of this option are given later in this article.

        Ukraine Family Scheme: How to Apply

        The application process for the Ukraine family scheme depends on whether you are inside or outside of the UK.

        If you are outside of the UK, you will need to apply online on the UK government website. The application screens are also available in Ukrainian and Russian. You will be required to prove your identity as part of the application.

        The next step is usually attending a visa application centre, where you should expect to have your photograph and fingerprints taken (although children under 5 are exempt from this requirement). There is a visa application centre in Kyiv, Ukraine, which is currently processing applications.

        If your application is successful, you will then need to travel to the visa application centre in Warsaw, where you will receive a visa vignette.

        When you receive your visa, you will then be able to travel to the UK. Upon arriving in the UK, you will then need to collect a biometric residence permit.

        If your application did not include a visa processing centre, however, you will instead receive an official permission letter from UK Visas and Immigration. This letter will act as a visa for the purposes of entering the UK and will allow you legal entry.

        If you are applying for this scheme from within the UK, you will also need to apply online. Next, you will need to attend an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services service point.

        These can be found in a number of UK locations, including London, Birmingham, and Manchester. After attending this meeting, you will then need to wait for the decision. You will be contacted once a decision has been made.

        Ukrainian Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine): How to Apply

        For this scheme, you can only apply from outside of the UK. The application process is the same as applying for the Ukraine Family Scheme from outside of the UK. However, you will generally be expected to provide additional evidence during your application.

        For example, if you have a named sponsor, it will aid your application if you are able to provide proof of their identity. This could include:

        • A UK or Irish passport or Irish passport card
        • A biometric residence permit or residence card
        • Refugee travel document
        • A photo driving licence from the UK, Ireland, or a Crown Dependency

        As with the Ukraine Family Scheme, you will receive either a visa or an official permission letter if your application is successful. You will then be able to legally enter the UK. Upon arrival in the UK, you will also need to acquire a biometric residence permit.

        Ukraine flag above crowd of people

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          Ukraine Extension Scheme: How to Apply

          The Ukraine Extension Scheme involves extending an existing visa, you will likely already be in the UK at the point of application. As such, you can apply for this scheme from within the UK. You will need to do so online. The current deadline for applying for this scheme is 16th May 2024.

          After applying online, you will then be required to attend an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services service point. As already noted, these can be found in numerous UK locations, including most major towns and cities.

          As part of your application, you will be required to show a valid passport, or another travel document which confirms your identity. You will also need to demonstrate that you have, or have recently had, permission to legally reside in the UK. Accepted forms of evidence include:

          • A biometric residence permit
          • A visa or visa vignette
          • A Home Office document which states that you have permission to enter and reside in the UK

          If you are applying on the basis of being the non-Ukrainian family member of a Ukrainian citizen, you will also need to provide evidence of your relationship to the Ukrainian citizen. This could include a birth certificate, a marriage certificate, or evidence that you and your Ukrainian partner have lived together for at least 2 years (the exact evidence required will depend on the nature of the relationship in question).

          What If I Am Ineligible For A UK Visa?

          If you are already in the UK and are not eligible for any of the UK visas, you also have the option of claiming asylum within the UK. Applying for asylum within the UK works as follows:

          First, you will need to register your case with an immigration officer, in what is known as a ‘screening’. At this meeting, you will:

          • Give the details of your specific circumstances
          • Have your photo taken
          • Have your fingerprints taken
          • Have your identity and nationality verified

          Next, your case will be reviewed by the UK Home Office. You will then receive either an asylum registration card (ARC) or an appointment letter which explains your next steps.

          The Home Office may also send you a questionnaire to collect more information on your case. If you do receive a questionnaire, you must make sure to return it by the given deadline.

          In some cases, you will also be assigned a UK caseworker.

          After the initial screening, some applicants will also be called to attend a follow – up asylum interview. These are generally requested when not enough information was provided at the initial screening for the Home Office to make a decision on whether or not to grant asylum. This interview generally takes place over video call.

          Finally, the Home Office will make a decision on your case. You will receive one of the following decisions: refused permission to stay, granted permission to stay with either refugee status or humanitarian protection, or granted permission to stay for reasons which do not fall under either refugee status or humanitarian protection.

          How Long Will The Application Take?

          Owing to the severity of the current situation in Ukraine, the UK Home Office is currently treating visa applications from Ukrainian refugees as a matter of priority. The Home Office has stated that it is processing these applications as quickly as possible. As such, applications should not generally take any longer than a few weeks to process.

          As of October 2023, the Home Office has acknowledged that application processing is sometimes taking up to 3 weeks and has stated that it is working to resolve this and make the process as quick as possible.

          In order to speed up your application, you should make sure to submit as many of the recommended documents as possible at the point of application. Also make sure to apply to the scheme which is best suited to your specific circumstances. Newcastle Immigration Lawyers can help you to determine which scheme is best for you. Contact us today at +441913038965 to learn more about your options.

          How Much Will It Cost?

          If you apply for one of the three nationality-specific visa options for Ukrainian refugees, you will not be required to pay for your visa application or your visa extensions. You will also not be required to pay the immigration health surcharge in order to use the National Health Service.

          However, if you switch from one visa type to another, you will likely need to pay the fees associated with the new visa. For example, it costs £490 to apply for or switch to a UK Student visa. The fee for a UK work visa varies depending on the type of visa in question and your particular circumstances, but the cost ranges from £719 to £1,500. You will also need to pay the healthcare surcharge, which generally costs around £624 a year.

          How Newcastle Immigration Lawyers Can Help

          For many Ukrainian refugees, the UK is a common choice for resettlement. Many Ukrainians have family members in the UK or view the UK as a safe country in which to reside. However, there are a number of different visas to choose from, each one with its own eligibility criteria. As such, without the right assistance, the process can be complicated and confusing. What is more, there are also visa options which are not nationality-specific, meaning that it can be difficult to know which option is best for you.

          At Newcastle Immigration Lawyers, we can help you with a range of services relating to your own asylum journey. Our range of services includes: asylum applications, asylum appeals, detained casework, bail (SoS application and tribunal), bail renewal, fresh claims, permission to work applications, travel documents, biometric residence permits (including if your permit is lost, stolen, or contain errors), 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 or online to receive bespoke immigration advice on your own specific situation.

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                    Frequently Asked Questions

                    As of September 2023, 283,366 applications have been submitted under the main Ukraine visa routes. 225,278 of these applications were successful. Additionally, 24,593 extensions have been granted through the Ukraine Family Scheme and Ukraine Extension Scheme.

                    As of March 2023, adult females accounted for 48% of arrivals, minor children accounted for 29%, and adult males accounted for 18%.

                    As of March 2023, the South East of England is hosting the highest number of Ukrainian refugees. This is followed by London and then by the South West.

                    Generally speaking, if you are a Ukrainian national then you will require a visa in order to enter the UK. However, if you are already in the UK and are not eligible for any of the visa options, you can consider claiming asylum. If you intend to claim asylum in the UK, you should keep in mind that the UK government’s new policy focus on ‘safe and legal’ entry routes means that those who enter the UK without authorisation are significantly less likely to have their asylum claims accepted.

                    If you would like to invite someone from Ukraine to the UK, you can apply for the Ukrainian Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine). The details of this scheme are given in this article. Note that you will need to satisfy certain eligibility criteria in order to qualify as a sponsor under this scheme.

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