The UK Government has announced some changes to the visa rules applicable to Ukrainian nationals, in order to make it easier for additional Ukrainians to apply to come to the UK in light of the current situation. 

It is important to note that Ukrainians are visa nationals. This means that they will require a visa in advance of travel to the UK (including when entering as a visitor) and that position has not changed. However, the UK Government has announced that with effect from 15th March 2022 those Ukrainians who have passports will no longer need to go to a visa application centre to give their biometrics before they come to the UK under the Ukraine Family Scheme outlined below. This means that a fully online process will enable them to come to the UK.

The changes to the visa rules also mean that a broader range of family members of British nationals; UK settled persons and certain others can apply to come to the UK. We provide an explanation of the changes below. We also:

  • highlight some other immigration concessions that apply to Ukrainian nationals who are already in the UK on temporary visa routes (some employers may have Ukrainian nationals working for them under such temporary routes); and
  • comment on a new 'Local sponsorship' visa route (the details are yet to be published in full) which some employers may wish to use to support Ukrainian nationals to come to the UK. 

Ukraine family scheme: what are the rules?

The new rules now in place mean that:

  • British nationals
  • those of any nationality who are settled in the UK (e.g. those with indefinite leave to remain, settled status or permanent residence)
  • EEA nationals with pre-settled status and who started living in the UK before 1 January 2021
  • those with refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK

can bring certain family members to the UK, subject to meeting the eligibility criteria, which include a requirement that the applicant must have been residing in Ukraine prior to 1 January 2022 (including those who have now left Ukraine). Click here for further information on other eligibility requirements. 

The new rules now permit extended family members as well as immediate family members to apply.

Immediate family members include:

  • a spouse or civil partner, fiancé or proposed civil partner
  • an unmarried partner (they must have been living together in a relationship for at least 2 years)
  • a parent if you are under the age of 18
  • a child under the age of 18

Extended family members include: parents (over 18), adult children, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, aunts or uncles, nieces or nephews, cousins or in-laws. 

Extended family members will also be able to bring their immediate family with them. For example, their spouse, civil partner, fiancé or proposed civil partner (provided their relationship started before 1 January 2022), children under 18, or partners of a child under 18. 

In exceptional circumstances, other family members will be considered. Further details of the eligibility criteria for the scheme can be found here and here.

Do the usual financial requirements and English language requirements apply?

No, the scheme does not include any salary or language requirements. 

What is the cost?

There is a fee waiver arrangement in place so the usual fees do not have to be paid.

How can you apply?

Individuals must apply online. From 15 March 2022, Ukrainians who have a valid Ukrainian international passport or an expired Ukrainian international passport with a formal extension stamp issued by the Ukrainian government, will no longer need to go to a visa application centre to give their biometrics before they come to the UK under this scheme, as mentioned above. More information on uploading documents online can be found here.

Individuals without a passport, or who have a Ukrainian domestic passport or I.D. card, will still need to make an appointment at a Visa Application Centre where their passport will be scanned and biometrics given.

Visa Application Centres in Ukraine are currently closed. The UK Government guidance does however state that you can apply at a centre in any country if you are able to travel safely.

There is a temporary Visa Application Centre in Rzeszow, Poland, but they are no longer accepting walk-in appointments. 

Successful applicants will then be granted either a letter of permission (for those with international passports) or a visa to enter the UK. Individuals should not travel until these are received. In some cases, a further visa application must be made once the individual has arrived in the UK. Details of when that applies and the process can be found here

Guidance on how to apply to the scheme from inside the UK is available here.

Helpline for applicants

Those in the region who are eligible under this route are encouraged to call the free 24/7 helpline on +44 808 164 8810 for assistance. Once they have called this number, the Home Office will then confirm if they are eligible, direct them to the relevant visa application form and let them know the process to follow.

New Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme introduced

The Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme, also known as the 'Homes for Ukraine' scheme, is a new scheme for Ukrainian nationals and their immediate family, who don't have ties to the UK. 

Phase One of the scheme opened on 18 March 2022 for visa applications from those who wish to travel to the UK and who have named individuals/families in the UK willing to sponsor them. Full details on this stage of the scheme and the eligibility criteria can be found here.

Also, the Scottish Government are acting as a 'super sponsor', offering a route to accommodation, support and care in Scotland for 3,000 Ukrainians.  When applying for a visa under the scheme, applicants without a named sponsor can select 'The Scottish Government' as their sponsor. See here for more information.

In future, the UK Government have indicated their intention to help organisations to also sponsor individuals directly. You can register your interest as an organisation here

Temporary measures for Ukrainian nationals already in the UK

The UK Government has said that Ukrainians who are on work, study or visit visas in the UK already will qualify to have their visas temporarily extended or be able to switch to different visa routes. Those on seasonal work visas may have their leave temporarily extended. Please get in touch if you have an employee in this situation and you require help to undertake a right to work check or otherwise ensure they can continue working for you in the UK.

Can I sponsor Ukrainian's under the Skilled Worker route?

Yes – it is possible for employers who have a sponsor licence to sponsor Ukrainians to work for them under the Skilled Worker route in the usual way. There are minimum skills and salary requirements that apply to this route. We can provide more information on the eligibility criteria. Some employers are expediting their recruitment processes to facilitate this.

Where can I find further details?

Further information can be found using the below UK Government guidance links:

Will further changes to immigration rules applicable to Ukrainian nationals be made?

The UK Government has said that the situation will be kept under review and it is possible that further changes will be made.

For more information on any of the issues discussed in this blog, please contact Elaine McIlroy or Erin McLafferty.