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The immigration options for those affected by the conflict in Ukraine

Joanna Hunt
01/03/2022

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United Kingdom

The situation in Ukraine is escalating by the day. The conflict in the country has already led to large numbers of people leaving to seek shelter and safety elsewhere. The Government in the UK has been put under pressure to offer support and help to the residents of Ukraine who have been affected.

British nationals in Ukraine

For any British nationals in Ukraine, the Foreign office advice is to leave the country if it is safe to do so. For British nationals who decide to remain in Ukraine they are encouraged to register with the FCO so they can be supported by the UK authorities with up to date information and advice.

Non- British Family members of British nationals who are resident in Ukraine

For non-British family members of 'UK-based' individuals, the Government has launched the Ukraine Family Scheme. This allows applicants to join family members in the UK, free of charge.  Applicants must be Ukrainian, or the immediate family of a Ukrainian national who is applying to the scheme. Additionally, applicants must have been residing in Ukraine prior to 1 January 2022.

Applicants must be applying to join their 'UK-based family member', who should be one of the following:

  • A British national
  • Someone settled in the UK – e.g. holding Indefinite leave to remain
  • Someone who has pre-settled status and started living in the UK before 1 January 2021
  • Someone with refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK

Further, applicants will be asked to prove that their UK-based family member is one of the following:

  • The applicant's immediate family member – this covers the following:
    • Spouse or civil partner
    • Unmarried partners (you must have been living together in a relation for at least 2 years)
    • Child who is under 18
    • Parent (if applicant is under 18)
    • FiancĂ© or proposed civil partner
  • The applicant's extended family member – this covers the following:
    • Parent (if applicant is over 18)
    • Child (who is over 18)
    • Grandparent
    • Grandchild or partner's grandchild
    • Brother or sister
  • An immediate family member of the applicant's extended family member:
    • Spouse or civil partner of an extended family member
    • Child under 18 of an extended family member
    • Parent of a child under 18 who is an extended family member
    • FiancĂ© or proposed civil partner of an extended family member

This could be via a marriage or birth certificate. If applicants cannot provide documentation, they can still apply to the scheme and explain why they are unable to provide the relevant documents. The Home Office have provided that other family members will be considered where there are exceptional circumstances.
 
Individuals who are granted entry clearance under this route will have a visa lasting up to three years. This visa will allow them to work in the UK. The Home Office have stated that applications will be prioritised and they will aim to make a decision as quickly as possible. Applicants should apply online, and will need to book and attend an appointment at a Visa Application Centre.

Applicants also face difficulties getting to a visa application centre to make the visa application. The UK’s Visa Application Centres in Ukraine are now closed. Alternatively applicants are being directed to apply through the visa application centres in neighbouring countries such as Poland, Hungary, Romania and Moldova if they are able to reach them.

The UK Government has come under criticism for not following other countries such as Ireland, and waiving visa requirements for Ukrainians. This would allow Ukrainians to gain entry to the UK by presenting a passport at the border and avoiding the logistical complexity of making a visa application and attending a visa application centre. The Government has thus far rejected these calls.

Other Visa options for Ukrainian nationals

The Government have launched the Homes for Ukraine scheme which is aimed at Ukrainians who do not have a family connection to the UK. UK residents can sponsor a Ukrainian as long as they can offer them accommodation for at least six months. If successful, then applicants will receive a visa valid for three years which will allow them to live and work in the UK. Further details of the scheme can be found here.

The Government have suggested that this scheme will be rolled out to allow organisations such as charities and businesses to sponsor Ukrainians. We will update once we know more.

Ukrainians should seek advice on their eligibility under these visa routes. UKVI are again encouraging anyone to contact them if they need assistance or if they need to travel to the UK urgently they can tell staff at the visa application centre their reasons for this.

Ukrainian nationals in the UK

UKVI have also announced they will offer temporary concessions and support for Ukrainian nationals in the UK who are unable to return to their home country. They may be able to extend their visa or switch into another visa category to ensure they can continue to lawfully remain in the UK for as long as the situation in Ukraine remains perilous. Claiming asylum is also an option for those who fear returning to the country.

The situation is evolving on a daily basis and the measures being offered by the Home Office for people caught up in the conflict may change. The immigration team at Fieldfisher are on hand to provide support and advice to anyone affected.

With special thanks to Solicitor Apprentice, Lucy Moss, co-author of this article.

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