The UK government has announced a number of changes to the UK immigration rules applicable to Ukrainian nationals in response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Ukrainian nationals remain visa nationals, which means that they require a visa in order to travel to the United Kingdom, regardless of their intended length of stay. This LawFlash summarizes the available UK immigration routes to these individuals.
The Ukraine Family Scheme is intended for immediate and extended family members of UK-based sponsors. The immediate family members of extended family members can also apply. The application is free and no immigration health charge is payable.
The UK-based sponsor must be one of the following:
An immediate family member of a UK-based sponsor must be one of the following:
An extended family member of a UK-based sponsor must be one of the following:
An immediate family member of an extended family member must be one of the following:
Applicants to the scheme must be Ukrainian nationals unless they are applying as part of a family group with their immediate family member who is a Ukrainian national and qualifies under this scheme.
In order to apply under the scheme, the applicant must have been ordinarily resident in Ukraine on or immediately before January 1, 2022, unless they are already present in the United Kingdom or they are a child born or adopted on or after that date. The scheme does not include any salary or language requirements and the tuberculosis testing requirement has been waived.
Individuals must apply online. From March 15, 2022, holders of valid Ukrainian international passports who are outside the United Kingdom are not required to provide their biometric information from overseas. For those without a valid Ukrainian international passport after March 15, 2022, an appointment will need to be made at a visa application centre where their identity and nationality documents will be scanned and biometrics given. The visa application centre in Kyiv is closed; however, Ukrainian nationals are exceptionally permitted to attend any overseas UK visa application centre. It is also possible to apply under the scheme from within the United Kingdom.
Successful applicants will be granted leave to remain in the United Kingdom for three years, with work and access to public funds permitted.
Applications made under the Ukraine Family Scheme will be prioritized by the Home Office.
The Homes for Ukraine Scheme is open for applications from March 18, 2022, and will enable people seeking sanctuary with no family ties to the United Kingdom to be sponsored by individuals or organizations who can offer them a home, such as a spare room or unoccupied residential self-contained unit.
Immigration permission will be granted for an initial stay of three years, with work and access to public funds being permitted. Integration and housing support will also be included for participants.
The first phase of the scheme will allow sponsors who have registered an interest in sponsoring a named individual or Ukrainian family to apply for their visas to the United Kingdom. The number of individuals that can be sponsored under this scheme is uncapped.
Below is an overview of the requirements:
Sponsors are asked to provide accommodations for a minimum of six months and will be offered an optional “thank you” payment of 350 pounds ($461) per month to people who can accommodate one or more household for up to 12 months.
The UK government has published some temporary concessions to support Ukrainian nationals currently in the United Kingdom who are now unable to leave when their existing immigration permission expires.
Ukrainian nationals who hold work, study, or visit visas in the United Kingdom already will qualify to have their visas temporarily extended or be able to switch to different visa routes where this would not ordinarily be permitted. Those on seasonal work visas may have their leave temporarily extended.
It is possible for employers who have a sponsor license 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. Employers may wish to expedite recruitment processes to facilitate this.
Employers should be aware that the UK Visas and Immigration department has temporarily suspended priority services for all visa applications submitted outside of the United Kingdom so that they can prioritize applications made under the Ukraine Family Scheme. Employers should therefore factor in longer lead times for the recruitment of overseas nationals into the United Kingdom.
While the United Kingdom is certainly an option, in most instances it will be easiest, from an immigration perspective, for people to travel to an EU member state. Ukraine nationals can enter without a visa and EU member states have activated the Temporary Protection Directive. This means that Ukrainian nationals and persons who are refugees or have subsidiary protection in Ukraine and have left Ukraine after the Russian operations in the country can receive immediate protection and a temporary residence permit in an EU member state. The residence permit will be valid for an initial 12-month period and will be renewable in two six-month increments should the situation in Ukraine remain unstable. If necessary, a third year may be added by the European Union.
Immediately upon application, such individuals can get help with food and accommodation, if they have an urgent need for it. Once they have received their respective permit they will, in addition to food and housing, have the right to work, the right to seek basic care, the right to schooling for children, and certain financial support.
The directive applies to the following:
To be covered by the directive, the individual must have left the country on February 24, 2022 or later.
As this is an EU directive, all member states are required to implement it within their national law, meaning that each member state has certain discretion on how to implement the directive and there is not yet an established process across all EU countries. Notably, EU member states may grant more generous rights than those outlined by the directive (e.g., longer duration of stay or including a broader group of eligible applicants).
Impacted citizens should take advantage of immediate concessions and should remain informed of the growing number of concessions as they are released by local authorities, and prepare for delays in consular and immigration processes.
The Home Office is also operating a UK Visa Ukraine Helpline, which can be reached at: + 44 808 164 8810 (lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week).
Morgan Lewis stands ready to assist employers who wish to assist with bringing Ukrainian nationals to the United Kingdom or elsewhere in Europe and individuals seeking to extend their visas as a result of the ongoing crisis. For help with this or any other immigration query, please reach out to your Morgan Lewis contact or any of the lawyers below.
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If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this alert, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:
Ukraine Conflict Task Force
Giovanna M. Cinelli
Kenneth J. Nunnenkamp
Carl A. Valenstein
Jiazhen (Ivon) Guo
Katelyn M. Hilferty
UK Immigration Team
Shannon A. Donnelly