Ukraine Refugee Aid in UK

ukraine refugee aid

IN THIS SECTION

As a result of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, thousands of individuals and families have been displaced, seeking refuge and safety abroad. In response, the UK introduced a number of immigration routes tailored specifically to aid Ukrainian refugees, ensuring they receive the support and sanctuary they need.

These schemes and routes are, however, subject to frequent change. For example, the Ukraine Family Scheme, which allowed those with family connections in the UK to join their relatives, closed on 19 February 2024. As such, it is important to ensure you are adhering to the most recent rules. Professional advice is recommended to ensure you are proceeding with the appropriate scheme for your circumstances.

Currently, the main route available to Ukrainian refugees is the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme, designed to match Ukrainian nationals with UK sponsors who can provide housing. Ukrainians already in the UK will soon be able to apply to extend their stay under the Ukrainian Permission Extension Scheme. The Ukrainian Extension Scheme for certain Ukrainians in the UK closes on 16 May 2024 but will remain open for children born in the UK.

Ukrainians also remain eligible to apply for a UK visa to visit, work, study or join family, in the same way as all overseas nationals.

In this guide, we explain the various routes that the UK introduced for Ukrainian refugees, with details of the most recent changes to these scheme, and the current options for Ukrainian nationals looking to come to the UK.

 

Section A: Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme

 

The Homes for Ukraine Scheme is a UK government initiative designed to provide humanitarian support to Ukrainian nationals fleeing the conflict in their home country.

 

1. Overview of the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme

 

The programme allows UK residents to sponsor Ukrainian individuals and families, providing them with a place to stay.

Ukrainians can stay with their sponsors for a minimum of six months, with the possibility to extend for a further 18 months under the new Ukraine Permission Extension scheme.

Ukrainians in the UK, under the sponsorship scheme, have access to public funds, including benefits and the right to work.

 

2. How UK Hosts Can Offer Accommodation

 

Any individual residing in the UK with a spare room or suitable accommodation can be a sponsor or ‘host’.

UK residents interested in becoming hosts can register through the official UK government portal dedicated to the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.

Potential hosts must undergo a vetting process, including home suitability checks, to ensure the environment is safe and conducive for the guests.

Hosts will need to commit to providing accommodation for a minimum period, typically at least six months, and they will receive £350 per month per Ukrainian refugee they house for the initial six months.

 

3. Who can be Sponsored under the Scheme?

 

The scheme is open to Ukrainian nationals directly affected by the war. Hosts can sponsor individuals or families they know personally or match with Ukrainians through the matching service on GOV.UK.

 

4. Steps for Ukrainians to Apply

 

Step 1: Eligibility Check
Ukrainian nationals must first verify their eligibility, which includes being outside of the UK and in need of international protection.

 

Step 2: Match with a Host

Applicants can either find a sponsor themselves or get help through matching services provided by NGOs or the UK government.

 

Step 3: Application Submission

Once a match is made, Ukrainians can apply via the UK government’s official application form specifically for this scheme.

Applicants will be required to provide:

 

a. Identity Verification: Applicants must provide a valid Ukrainian passport or ID card.

b. Sponsor Details: Information about the UK sponsor/host, including their address and accommodation details.

c. Visa Application Forms: Completed forms relevant to the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.

 

Step 4: Application Processing 

 

Typically, the process can take a few weeks; however, efforts are made to expedite applications due to the urgency of the situation.

 

Step 5: Arrival and Set Up 

 

Once the visa is granted, arrangements for travel and initial setup are coordinated, often with the assistance of the host and local support services.

 

Section B: Ukraine Family Visa Scheme [Now Closed]

 

The Ukraine Family Visa Scheme closed to new applicants on 19 February 2024. Those who would have been eligible under the Family Visa Scheme should look at the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme.

 

1. Overview of the Ukraine Family Visa Scheme

 

The Ukraine Family Visa Scheme was introduced as part of the UK’s humanitarian response to the crisis in Ukraine. This scheme allowed Ukrainian nationals, along with their immediate family members, to come to the UK if they have family members already settled or residing in the country. The scheme was designed to offer a safe and legal route for those affected by the conflict in Ukraine to reunite with their families.

 

2. Eligibility Requirements

 

To be eligible for the Ukraine Family Visa Scheme prior to its closure, applicants had to meet the following requirements:

 

a. The applicant must be a Ukrainian national or a close family member of a Ukrainian national.

b. They must have a family member in the UK who is either a British citizen, settled in the UK (such as those with Indefinite Leave to Remain), or has refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK.

c. The family connections can include spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners, dependent children, and sometimes extended family members under certain circumstances.

 

Section C: Ukraine Extension Scheme

 

Eligible Ukrainian nationals can apply to extend their stay in the UK under the Ukraine Extension Scheme until it closes on 16 May 2024.

The scheme will, however, remain open for children born in the UK.

 

1. Overview of the Ukraine Extension Scheme

 

The Ukraine Extension Scheme was designed to provide additional support to Ukrainian nationals whose visas are nearing expiration, allowing them to extend their stay in the UK.

Individuals under this scheme continue to have access to public funds, healthcare, education, and integration support services, which are crucial for long-term adaptation and success in the UK.

This application process does not require a UK-based sponsor.

 

2. Eligibility Requirements

 

You may be eligible to apply for the Ukraine Extension Scheme if you are Ukrainian or have a Ukrainian family member, provided you do so before it closes on 16 May 2024 and provided one of the following conditions applies:

 

a. You had permission to stay in the UK at any point from 18 March 2022 to 16 November 2023. Continuous permission throughout this period is not necessary.

b. Your permission to stay in the UK expired on or after 1 January 2022.

Additionally, you can apply for this scheme on behalf of your child born in the UK after 18 March 2022 if either:

a. You currently have permission to stay in the UK under any of the Ukraine-specific schemes, including the Ukraine Family Scheme.

b. You are eligible under the Ukraine Extension Scheme.

 

Post 16 May 2024, the Ukraine Extension Scheme will continue to accept applications for children born in the UK.

 

Section D: Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme

 

1. Overview of the Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme

 

The UK Government introduced the Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme in February 2024 to offer extended support to Ukrainians already residing in the UK under existing Ukraine Schemes.

The scheme grants an additional 18 months of permission to stay in the UK, bringing your total stay to a maximum of two and a half years (depending on your initial visa length). This allows Ukrainians further stability and time to rebuild their lives.

You’ll retain the same rights and access to benefits as under your existing Ukraine Scheme visa. This includes the ability to work, access healthcare, and claim public funds (if applicable).

 

2. Eligibility Requirements

 

To be eligible for the Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme, you must meet the following criteria:

a. You currently hold a valid visa granted under one of the following Ukraine Schemes: Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme; or the Ukraine Family Scheme (applications closed in February 2024, but consider if you already have a visa); or the Ukraine Extension Scheme (applications closed in May 2024, but consider if you already have a visa).

b. Your current visa is due to expire within the next three months.

While the Ukraine Family Scheme and the Ukraine Extension Scheme are no longer accepting new applications as of April 2024, if you were granted permission to stay under either scheme previously, you might still be eligible for the Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme.

 

Section E: Tips for Ukrainian Refugees Making a UK Application

 

When making an application to the UK Home Office, follow these tips to avoid issues and give you the best chance of success:

 

1. Use Official Channels Only

 

Always use the official channels for applications to avoid scams.

 

2. Gather Documentation Early

 

Start collecting necessary documents as soon as you decide to apply. Essential papers often include passports, proof of residency, birth or marriage certificates, and any previous UK visa documentation. Having these ready can speed up your application process.

 

3. Understand the Specific Requirements of Your Visa Scheme

 

Each visa scheme has unique requirements. Make sure you thoroughly understand the criteria for the visa you are applying for. This could include demonstrating family ties, proving you have a sponsor, or showing that you have previously been granted permission to stay in the UK.

 

4. Seek Help if Needed

 

Seek legal advice or assistance from recognised charities if you encounter difficulties during the application process. They can provide guidance, help fill out forms, and even offer language support if English is not your first language.

 

5. Keep Copies of All Submissions

 

Make digital and physical copies of every document you submit and keep a record of all correspondence with the Home Office. This will be useful if there are any questions about your application or if documents get lost.

 

6. Check for Application Deadlines

 

Be aware of any deadlines associated with your application. Submitting early can avoid last-minute stresses and potential delays.

 

7. Stay Updated on Changes

 

Immigration laws can change quickly. Stay updated on any changes that might affect your application or status in the UK by checking official communications regularly.

 

8. Engage with Community Groups

 

Connecting with other Ukrainians or refugee groups in the UK can provide emotional support, advice, and practical help as you navigate the application process.

 

9. Consider Your Long-Term Needs

 

Think about your long-term goals, such as work, education, and living arrangements, when choosing a visa scheme. This foresight can help ensure that the visa you apply for aligns with your future plans.

 

 

Section F: Alternative Immigration Routes

 

If the Ukrainian schemes are not appropriate for your circumstances, you should consider alternative pathways to enter the UK. Each visa category has specific eligibility criteria and application processes. It’s crucial to research the requirements for the visa that best suits your situation, which could include:

 

1. Family Visa

If you have a close family member who is a British citizen or has settled status in the UK, you might be eligible for a Family Visa. This visa allows you to join your family and live in the UK for an extended period.

 

2. Work Visa

If you have a job offer from a UK employer with a sponsor license, you can apply for a Work Visa. This visa grants you permission to work and reside in the UK for the duration of your employment contract. There are various work visa categories that cater to different skill levels and professions.

 

3. Study Visa

If you wish to pursue higher education in the UK, you can apply for a Study Visa. This visa allows you to enrol in a full-time course at a recognised UK university or college.

 

4. Visitor Visa

For shorter visits to the UK, you might consider a Visitor Visa. This visa allows you to visit family friends, or for tourism purposes for a limited period.

 

Section G: Summary

 

Following the outbreak of war, the UK took swift action to welcome Ukrainian refugees through a number of dedicated, fast-tracked immigration routes. However, these schemes have been subject to ongoing change and in some cases, closure.

Currently, Ukrainian refugees seeking safety and stability in the UK should look at the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme for immediate temporary housing through UK hosts. Those already in the UK should look to extend their status, which for most will now be under the Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme.

If you or someone you know is navigating the challenges of seeking refuge in the UK as a Ukrainian national, remember that you are not alone. Given the complexities of immigration processes and the challenges of adjusting to a new country, seeking professional advice can be immensely beneficial. Legal experts and refugee support organisations can provide guidance, help navigate the application process, and offer support in integration into UK society.

 

Section H: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Ukrainian Refugees in the UK

 

How do I apply for a visa under the Ukraine Family Visa Scheme?

The Ukraine Family Visa Scheme is now closed to new applicants. Alternative immigration routes could include the Homes For Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme or a relevant UK visa such as a family, work, visit or study visa.

 

What should I do if I don’t have a host under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme?

If you do not have a pre-arranged sponsor or host, you can register your interest in the scheme through various NGOs or through the UK government’s matching service, which can help connect you with potential hosts.

 

Can I work in the UK on a Ukraine-specific visa?

Yes, Ukrainian refugees are generally granted the right to work in the UK under the Ukraine Family Visa Scheme, Homes for Ukraine Scheme, and other related visas. This includes access to employment services to help find suitable job opportunities.

 

What healthcare services are available to me as a refugee?

Ukrainian refugees have access to the National Health Service (NHS), which provides comprehensive healthcare services free at the point of use. This includes emergency services, routine doctor visits, and mental health support.

 

How can I extend my stay in the UK?

If your current visa is nearing its expiration, you can apply for an extension or switch to a different visa route if eligible. If you have status as a Ukrainian refugee, you may be able to extend your stay through the Ukraine Extension Scheme up until 16 May 2024 or the Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme.

 

What kind of support is available for integrating into UK society?

various resources are available, including English language classes, employment assistance, and cultural orientation programs. Local councils and charities also offer personalised support services to help with social integration.

 

What should I do if I face discrimination or legal issues?

Legal aid and support are available through organisations like the Refugee Council and legal aid clinics, which can provide guidance and representation. It’s important to report any instances of discrimination or harassment to the authorities or a trusted advisor.

 

Are there specific services for children and families?

Yes, children have the right to attend local schools, and families can access support services like child benefits and parenting programs. Local communities and schools often have resources specifically aimed at helping children from refugee backgrounds.

 

Can I travel back to Ukraine or to other countries once I have refugee status in the UK?

Travel can be complicated for refugees depending on your visa and the stability of your refugee status. Take professional advice from a UK immigration expert before making any travel plans, especially regarding trips back to Ukraine.

 

How do I find permanent housing?

While initially, you may receive temporary housing support, for long-term solutions, you can seek advice from local housing authorities or charities like Shelter, which can guide you through the process of finding and securing permanent accommodation.

 

Section I: Support Services and Resources for Ukrainian Refugees in the UK

 

1. Government Support 

 

UK Visa and Immigration Services
https://gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration
Provides information on all types of visas and application processes.

 

Homes for Ukraine Scheme
https://gov.uk/homes-for-Ukraine

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities: Manages the Homes for Ukraine scheme and offers resources for both hosts and guests.

 

National Health Service (NHS)
https://www.nhs.uk/
Offers free health care to Ukrainian refugees under all visa schemes, including mental health support.

 

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions
Provides access to public funds and benefits, including Universal Credit and Jobseeker’s Allowance.

 

2. Employment and Career Support

 

Jobcentre Plus
https://jobhelp.campaign.gov.uk/looking-for-the-right-job/jobcentre-plus-support/
Offers support in finding employment and training opportunities.

 

Career Advice Services
https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/
Provide guidance tailored to refugees, helping them integrate into the UK job market.

 

3. Legal and Immigration Advice

 

Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA)
https://ilpa.org.uk/
Offers directories of immigration legal advisers and solicitors.

 

Refugee Council
https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/
Provides advice on legal rights, asylum applications, and the refugee status determination process.

 

4. Community and Social Integration

 

British Red Cross
https://www.redcross.org.uk/
Offers a range of services from emergency provisions to psychosocial support.

 

Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA)
https://www.cara.ngo/
Supports at-risk academics, including Ukrainians, providing them with opportunities in the UK’s academic institutions.

 

5. Housing and Accommodation Support

 

Shelter
https://www.shelter.org.uk/
Provides advice on housing rights and homelessness.

 

Local Housing Authorities
Offer support on housing issues and can provide emergency housing.

 

6. Additional Resources

 

Ukrainian Community Centres
Many UK cities have community centres run by and for Ukrainians, offering a place for cultural exchange, community support, and personalised advice.

 

Social Media Groups and Forums

Platforms like Facebook have groups where Ukrainians in the UK share advice, job postings, and housing opportunities.

 

Author

Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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