Introduction
How does the scheme work?
Applicant eligibility
Sponsor eligibility
Application process and grant
Issues for individual sponsors to consider
Issues for employers to consider
Switching into alternative immigration routes


Introduction

Since 18 March 2021, individuals have been able to act as sponsors for Ukrainian refugees and their immediate family members if they are willing to offer them a room in their home or separate self-contained accommodation for a minimum period of six months. Details for sponsorship by businesses and other organisations will be released at a later date.

A Homes for Ukraine campaign page and a frequently asked questions resource were published on Monday 14 March 2022. Application process details were published on 18 March 2022.

How does the scheme work?

This is a sponsored immigration route connected to the Homes for Ukraine scheme. It is intended for Ukrainians who do not have family ties to the United Kingdom such that they are eligible under the Ukraine Family Scheme. There is no cap on the number of people who can participate, but they must be matched with a corresponding sponsor.

Applicant eligibility

To be eligible, an applicant must be a Ukrainian citizen, or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian citizen, and resident in Ukraine immediately before 1 January 2022. Applicants will undertake security checks as part of the application process.

Sponsor eligibility

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 must be able to offer a commitment of a minimum of six months. Security checks on the sponsor side will also take place as part of the immigration application process.

Intending sponsors 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.

Individuals who already know who they wish to sponsor will need to supply their details to the applicant(s) so that these can be entered into the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme application form(s). Those who do not will need to be matched with individuals, either through informal networks or in coordination with charities or other organisations.

The frequently asked questions cover a range of common queries about the scheme and its development. It is possible to sign up to receive email alerts when this this page is updated.

Application process and grant

The initial information published by the government suggests that the scheme will be available only for individuals who are applying from outside the United Kingdom. Successful applicants will be granted immigration permission for up to three years, with work and access to public funds being permitted. Integration and housing support will also be included for participants.

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, if they have a valid Ukrainian international passport, they can apply online without attending a VAC.

Those who apply via a VAC will receive a three-month entry clearance vignette, which will be placed in their passport, if they have one, or may be issued on a free-standing letter. They will then be issued with a biometric residence permit (BRP) once they have arrived.

Those who apply online from outside the UK will receive an initial official permission letter allowing them to enter the UK. They will be granted six months' immigration permission by an immigration officer on entry and will then need to make a further application for immigration permission of up to three years duration. The in-country application will involve submitting an online application within six months of arrival and enrolling their biometrics at a UKVCAS service point. A BRP will be issued following approval.

Further clarification is awaited on whether initial in-country applications will be possible – for example, from individuals already in the United Kingdom as a visitor.

Issues for individual sponsors to consider

This scheme has been developed at pace. The full implications of it and the support that will need to be offered to sponsors and participants has not yet been fully elaborated. One significant area the government will need to address is access to adequate housing once sponsorship is no longer available, or if the sponsored accommodation is not large enough for family reunification. This is likely to be a significant possibility due to some family members currently remaining in Ukraine to serve in the armed forces or in essential occupations.

There are also property-related aspects to consider.(1)

Further communications from the government are expected in the near future. Sponsors should receive direct communications from the government during and following the completion of the application process. In the meantime, they may wish to register their interest as an individual so that they can ensure they receive relevant general updates.

From a practical perspective, aside from providing accommodation, sponsors will play a vital part in helping the people they host to access financial, healthcare, educational, English language and other immediate integration support.

Issues for employers to consider

Many employers are also considering measures aimed at assisting Ukrainian refugees and/or their families.

Sponsoring or recruiting scheme participants
Details of how employers may be able to act as sponsors are not yet available. It is unclear whether business sponsors will only be expected to provide or fund accommodation, or whether they will be expected to offer something more extensive. Separately, a number of employers have formed a consortium to help connect Ukrainians arriving in the United Kingdom with employment opportunities. The current discrimination law framework restricts the scope for employers to discriminate in favour of some nationalities, or against other nationalities, in relation to recruitment. There are, however, a number of steps that employers could potentially take to support those escaping the war, including donating to charities. Employers can also record their interest in directly sponsoring individuals to ensure that they are notified as soon as details of the business sponsorship route are released.

Right to work
Employers should be alert to the fact that the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme and Ukraine Family Scheme are being processed in non-standard ways to facilitate the entry of eligible refugees into the United Kingdom as swiftly as possible. Some of the documents they will hold to evidence their right to work may be unfamiliar.

Evidence of immigration permission presented by a scheme participant could include:

  • a visa vignette (sticker) endorsed onto a free-standing document;
  • a wet ink stamp in a passport giving immigration permission to enter the United Kingdom for six months, without any mention of no work or no recourse to public funds; and
  • a BRP.

Covid-19-adjusted, manual right to work checks are in place up to and including 30 September 2022. This process can be used for scheme participants with a visa vignette or wet ink stamp. Alternatively, a fully compliant manual check can be completed.

Employers should note that from 6 April 2022, right to work checks for all BRP holders will need to be completed online. Some scheme participants may need assistance with generating the correct share code to enable an online right to work check to be carried out.

Switching into alternative immigration routes

The Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme is generous in terms of it being a free immigration route with immediate access to work and public funds. However, it is not yet clear whether time spent in the United Kingdom with immigration permission under the scheme will lead to settlement, or whether it will be counted towards the continuous residence period under existing settlement routes. Immigration policy will need to respond to conflict developments in Ukraine as they arise.

In the meantime, those who want the security of being able to settle in the United Kingdom may wish to switch into another UK immigration route that they are eligible for. It is open to employers to support this – for example, for an employee who is eligible under the Skilled Worker route.

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

Endnotes

(1) Further information is available here.