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UK Visas for Ukrainians: Updates & Analysis

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By Sanwar Ali:


Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the UK has implemented several special visa schemes to support displaced Ukrainians seeking safety in the UK. These schemes reflect the evolving nature of the conflict, the needs of those seeking safety in the UK, and the UK's wider immigration policies.

Initial Response: The Ukraine Family Scheme

  • Overview: The initial Ukraine Family Scheme allowed immediate Ukrainian family members of British citizens or those settled in the UK to join them. This scheme was designed for rapid reunification amidst the urgent nature of the crisis.
  • Eligibility: The scheme was open to spouses, partners, children, parents, and other extended family members.
  • Launch Date: The Ukraine Family Scheme opened for applications on March 4, 2022.
  • Closure: The Ukraine Family Scheme closed at 3pm on 19 February 2024. Perhaps ended to try and reduce overall immigration into the UK.

Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme

  • Introduction: Launched in March 2022, the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme enabled UK residents to sponsor Ukrainians (regardless of family ties) to stay in their homes or other accommodation for a minimum of 6 months.
  • Matching and Support: The scheme involved sponsors offering accommodation and a complex matching process between potential sponsors and Ukrainian refugees. Sponsors received a monthly "thank you" payment to offset costs.
  • Recent Modifications: Initially, visas issued under the Homes for Ukraine scheme granted 3 years of leave to remain in the UK. For new applicants as of February 19, 2024, this is now 18 months. New applicants can then apply for a further 18 months through the Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme.

Ukraine Extension Scheme

  • Focus: The Ukraine Extension Scheme focuses on those Ukrainians who were already legally present in the UK on temporary visas prior to the crisis.
  • Purpose: This scheme grants an extension to their stay, providing continuity and stability. The initial eligibility window (18 March 2022 to 16 May 2023) was extended to November 16, 2023. It is currently set to close for applications on May 16, 2024.

Challenges and Considerations

  • Housing Shortages: The Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship scheme has faced strain due to the UK's housing crisis, making it difficult to find suitable accommodations for all refugees.
  • Matching Inefficiencies: The Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme has faced challenges in its matching process between potential UK sponsors and Ukrainian refugees. This process has sometimes been complex and slow.
  • Sudden Transition from Ukraine Family Scheme: The Ukraine Family Scheme closure on February 19, 2024, has been met with concern as it limits further family reunifications.
  • The Need for Longer-Term Solutions: As the displacement crisis continues, finding sustainable solutions for Ukrainians in the UK remains a challenge. Many face uncertainty when their visas under the initial schemes expire.
  • Limitations of Alternative Visa Routes: While traditional UK visa routes, such as the Skilled Worker Visa and the sponsorship licence system, could theoretically provide longer-term options for some Ukrainians, these pathways are significantly more difficult and costly to navigate than the specialized schemes designed for the crisis.

Future Outlook & the Impact of Immigration Policy

  • Government Stance: The UK government has expressed a desire to reduce overall immigration levels. This policy stance creates potential tension with the need to offer long-term pathways for displaced Ukrainians.
  • Advocacy Efforts: Refugee charities and advocacy groups continue to push for more robust support and longer-term solutions, potentially influencing policy shifts.

How Can Help with Sponsor Licences

If you need help with employing Skilled Workers and applying for a Sponsor Licence, including complying with your Sponsor Licence obligations, HR responsibilities, etc can help.

For more information and advice, please contact us at 0344 991 9222 or at sends e-mail)