Introduction
Additional measures outside existing asylum/humanitarian protection laws
Ukraine Family Scheme
Homes for Ukraine
EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit
Concessions to work and study routes
Other immigration routes
Entering United Kingdom

Comment


Introduction

In response to the conflict in Ukraine, the Home Office has put in place immediate concessions and has announced new immigration schemes for Ukrainian nationals.

The policy situation is still evolving, and the below gov.uk website pages should be checked for the current position:

Additional measures outside existing asylum/humanitarian protection laws

The current measures put in place by the British government in response to the specific situation in Ukraine include the following:

  • the Ukraine Family Scheme;
  • the Homes for Ukraine scheme; and
  • concessions to the normal work and study rules

Depending on an individual's particular circumstances, they may also be able to make an asylum or humanitarian protection claim; however, this is outside the scope of this article. Pro bono advice on this may be available through the Ukraine Advice Project UK or through advisers listed by the Refugee Council.

Ukraine Family Scheme

This 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 Home Office's caseworker guidance for the scheme confirms that it now supersedes the concessions originally announced for UK family route applications from 14 February 2022, and that any outstanding applications made under those concessions will now be considered under the scheme.

The caseworker guidance indicates that the Immigration Rules for the scheme should be made effective from 16 March 2022. However, no statement of changes to the Immigration Rules has yet been published. Applications to the scheme are currently being granted outside the Immigration Rules.

Application process and grant
The application is free and no immigration health charge is payable.

Applicants outside the United Kingdom must either attend a visa application centre (VAC) and provide their biometrics and passport or other identity documentation if they have this available, or, from 15 March 2022, if they have a valid Ukrainian international passport, they can apply online without attending a VAC.

Those who apply online from outside the United Kingdom will receive an initial letter allowing them to enter the UK. They will be granted six months' immigration permission on entry and will then need to make a further application during the six months after their arrival.

Those applying inside the United Kingdom must make an online application and enrol their biometrics (fingerprints and photograph) at a UKVCAS service point.

The Ukraine Family Scheme caseworker guidance confirms that in-country applicants who apply as an overstayer or while they are on immigration bail will not be refused for these reasons under the scheme.

The Home Office has published application data on the scheme here.

Eligibility
The UK-based sponsor must be one of the following:

  • a British citizen;
  • a person who is settled in the United Kingdom (this includes people with indefinite leave to remain or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme);
  • a person who has pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, and who started living in the United Kingdom before 1 January 2021; or
  • a person with refugee status or humanitarian protection.

The scheme cannot be used by family members of individuals with other forms of limited immigration permission in the United Kingdom.

An immediate family member of a UK-based sponsor is limited to:

  • a spouse or civil partner;
  • unmarried partners (this will be recognised where the couple have lived together for at least two years);
  • a parent, where the UK-based sponsor is under 18;
  • a child of the UK-based sponsor, who are under 18; amd
  • the fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner of the UK-based sponsor.

An extended family member of a UK-based sponsor is limited to:

  • a parent, where the UK-based sponsor is over 18;
  • a child who is over 18;
  • a grandparent of the UK-based sponsor;
  • a grandchild of the UK-based sponsor or the UK-based sponsor's partner; and
  • a sibling of the UK-based sponsor.

An immediate family member of an extended family member is limited to:

  • a spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner of an extended family member;
  • a child under 18 of an extended family member;
  • a parent of a child under 18 who is an extended family member; and
  • a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner of an extended family member

Some additional general stipulations are:

  • The applicant must have been living in the Ukraine on or before 1 January 2022. From the online form, this is initially confirmed through self-certification; however, the caseworker guidance indicates that evidence should be submitted if available and sets out some examples. The default position is that applicants will be believed if they self-certify. A caseworker, however, can ask for additional evidence if there is reason to believe the requirement is not met.
  • The definitions of relationships set out in the caseworker guidance must be met.
  • The relationship between a UK-based family member (or an extended family member) and their spouse, civil partner, fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner must have started before 1 January 2022.
  • An immediate family member of an extended family member must apply either at the same time as the extended family member or after the extended family member has been granted immigration permission under the scheme.

There is scope for other family members who do not fit within the recognised categories to be granted immigration permission under the scheme where they can give evidence of exceptional circumstances. Applications for foster children will also be considered. As these types of application will be referred to more senior officials, processing of them may be slower than for other applicants.

Homes for Ukraine

This scheme is open for applications from 18 March 2022 and is intended for Ukrainians who do not have family ties to the United Kingdom.

Initially, sponsors under the scheme must be individuals who are able to offer a spare room or separate self-contained accommodation to a Ukrainian refugee and their immediate family. They can provide their details directly into the immigration application of a person they wish to support, seek to be matched with an individual or family through a charity or other organisation, or register their interest on a dedicated campaign website. Details of how organisations, including businesses, can participate as sponsors will be released in the future.

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.

EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit

The guidance for applying to the Ukraine Family Scheme highlights that some eligible individuals may also be eligible to apply for an EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit. The Home Office asks individuals not to apply under both routes, and states that it will be possible to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme after arrival in the United Kingdom irrespective of which route is pursued for entry clearance.

The option may be advantageous, because the EU Settlement Scheme leads to settlement, whereas at present it is not known whether the Ukraine Family Scheme will lead to settlement, and/or whether time spent in this category will be counted towards settlement under other settlement routes.

On the other hand, there is a known backlog for EU Settlement Scheme Family Permits, with some applications taking in excess of three months to decide. It will be critical for individuals to be able to reach the United Kingdom as soon as possible and it is not clear whether applying for an EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit will delay this process.

Concessions to work and study routes

Ukrainian citizens and their dependent partners and children who either entered the United Kingdom before 24 February 2022 or made an entry clearance application before this date and have since arrived in the United Kingdom can access a range of concessions, which cover:

  • switching from one immigration category to another, where this would normally not be allowed under the Immigration Rules;
  • document flexibility, where an applicant provides a sufficient and reasonable explanation why they cannot provide a document that is normally required for their application;
  • waiver of tuberculosis testing; and
  • extension of immigration permission for seasonal workers, heavy goods vehicle drivers and pork butchers to 31 December 2022.

Other immigration routes

Ukrainian citizens are of course able to make an application under any other UK immigration category that is normally available.

Entering United Kingdom

To date, the UK government has declined to waive the visa requirement for Ukrainian citizens. This means that Ukrainian citizens must normally have a UK visa in place before seeking to enter the United Kingdom.

The Ukraine Family Scheme caseworker guidance confirms that individuals who intend to enter the United Kingdom under the scheme must apply for entry clearance in this capacity.

However, individuals who arrive at a UK port who do not have the correct entry clearance but who meet the family relationship requirements for the scheme should be considered by Border Force for leave to enter the United Kingdom outside the Immigration Rules for a period of six months. They will then be able to apply in-country for the scheme once it has opened for in-country applicants.

This provision could benefit Ukrainian citizens or other eligible applicants who already hold a valid UK visa, either as a visitor or in another capacity, as well as non-visa nationals who are able to apply for UK immigration permission at the border. This is because leave outside the Immigration Rules is likely to be granted without many of the immigration conditions that would normally apply to visitors or other limited permission holders.

In theory it is possible under this policy for a visa national who arrives at a UK juxtaposed control point in France or Belgium to demonstrate their family relationship and request leave to enter outside the Immigration Rules, but recent press reports indicate this does not appear to be happening in practice.

Whether new visitor visa applications for Ukrainian citizens will be granted will depend on whether the Immigration Rules for visitors are met in full. This would include having an intention to leave the United Kingdom at the end of the visit and otherwise being a genuine visitor, so in the current circumstances it is unlikely that a person who has fled from Ukraine will be able to demonstrate this.

It is not yet clear how long it will take to process applications under the Ukraine Family Scheme or Local Sponsorship Scheme for Ukraine. In the meantime, affected individuals may need to stay in an interim location before proceeding to the United Kingdom. The available options for such individuals would need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

As a general point, the Home Office always has discretion to grant immigration permission outside the Immigration Rules. Therefore, individuals may consider making a UK visa application relying on this discretion where, for example, they have compelling or compassionate reasons to advance.

Comment

Various issues still need resolving, including whether immigration permission granted under the Ukraine Family Scheme or Local Sponsorship Scheme for Ukraine will lead to settlement or will be counted towards the qualifying period required for settlement in other immigration categories.

As issues come to light, these will be flagged to the Home Office for resolution. It is, therefore, anticipated that the Immigration Rules and guidance on the provisions available for Ukrainian citizens and their family members will be frequently updated.

For further information on this topic please contact Andrew Osbourne, Supinder Singh Sian, Stephen O'Flaherty or Kathryn Denyer at Lewis Silkin by telephone (+44 20 7074 8000‚Äč) or email ([email protected], [email protected], stephen.o'[email protected] or [email protected]). The Lewis Silkin website can be accessed at www.lewissilkin.com.