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The Home Office has announced that UK visa rules will be temporarily eased for the partners and children of British nationals looking to leave Ukraine amid a looming Russian invasion. It’s understood that those eligible will be exempt from UK visa fees and other requirements – such as meeting minimum income thresholds and English language requirements.
The exemption will apply to spouses, civil or unmarried partners, and children under the age of 18 whose parent is not British. The decision was reportedly made by Home Secretary after the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advised against all travel to Ukraine, while urging British nationals to leave the country immediately.
Russia has denied that it plans to invade Ukraine. However, with hundreds of thousands of Russian troops massing at Ukraine’s border, with no signs of slowing, fears are growing that an invasion is imminent.
It’s understood that the Home Office is also prioritising passport applications submitted by British nationals in Ukraine, while government officials are contacting people eligible for UK visas to fast-track their cases.
Approximately 5,000 UK nationals are estimated to live in Ukraine, many of whom have businesses. British Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, who will be attending a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels, said that dual nationals and British citizens in Ukraine should continue to heed the FCDO advice, even though no attack has yet happened.
Meanwhile, the UK’s ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmonds, remains in Kyiv with a small team of diplomats. However, some of the embassy’s operations have been transferred to Lviv, in Western Ukraine, as a precautionary measure.
The UK government has said that British citizens in Ukraine can seek consular help in Kyiv and Lviv.
British officials have also doubled down on their calls for UK citizens to leave Ukraine, referring to intelligence that indicates that Russia has continued to amass troops and field hospitals around Ukraine ‘at pace’, according to Western officials.
Officials have said that they have received about 350 applications for various UK visa schemes, mostly from Ukrainians, and approximately 100 calls per day to a dedicated landline.
Guidelines published on the GOV.uk website state that ‘non-British family members of British nationals in Ukraine can apply for a family migration visa for free if they are the family member of a British national who usually lives in Ukraine’.
‘Individuals will need to provide information about themselves and their family members, as well as contact details. UKVI will then confirm eligibility for a family migration visa and share details of the gratis (free) application process. If an individual is ineligible for a family migration visa, they will be advised to consider applying for a different visa’, the guidance added.
Home Office minister, Damian Hinds, said: “There are relatively small numbers who have been applying so far for family visas for family members. But there are appointments available in the visa application centre, we have got a help centre up and running and, of course, we are prioritising those applications and turning them around quickly.”
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