From Tuesday 15 March 2022, the process of applying to join a family member in the UK under the Ukraine Family Scheme has been simplified. Ukraine passport holders are no longer required to attend in-person biometric appointments. Security checks on applicants can be completed electronically, and the applicant’s confirmation of permission to travel to the UK can also be provided in digital form. This means that most applicants can complete their applications entirely online.
The Home Secretary announced last Thursday that Ukraine passport holders who apply successfully online, will be granted leave to enter the UK for 6 months outside of the normal Immigration Rules. They will be able to work, study and claim benefits immediately. Once in the UK, they will be able to attend a biometric appointment and have their stay extended to 36 months.
At present this new procedure applies to passport holders. Those who only have an ID Card will have to attend a biometric appointment before their application is granted, and before they enter the UK. At European Visa Application Centres, appointment numbers have increased from 2,000 to roughly 13,000. The government hopes that these new provisions will result in quicker processing in the coming days.
Last weekend, Housing Secretary Michael Gove made significant announcements about the Homes for Ukraine scheme, under which individuals fleeing Ukraine will be able to nominate an individual or family, business, charity, or community group to stay with (in an individual’s own property, or another property e.g., owned by the business), for a minimum of 6 months. Successful applicants will be granted leave to enter the UK for an initial period of 36 months. Applications may be submitted from 18 March 2022.
In exchange for offering up rooms or homes, individual sponsors will receive a monthly grant of £350 (described as a ‘thank you’ payment) from the government and local authorities may be entitled to £10,000 or more per applicant, with additional payments available to support school-aged children.
Citizens of Ukraine, or immediate family members of a Ukraine citizen, resident in Ukraine before 1 January 2022 are eligible to apply under the scheme. They will be able to work in the UK and access public funds.
The website for individuals in the UK who wish to express an interest in becoming a sponsor launched on Monday 14 March. Anyone with a room or home available can apply to become a sponsor, whereupon they will undergo security checks before being approved.
Commentators have warned that the scheme must be implemented with the correct level of care, resources, and entitlements, including healthcare and benefits. There are two immediate problem areas. First, that the sponsor arrangement will be a short-term measure; clear guidance will be needed about the available options for Ukraine citizens entering the UK under this scheme to stay for the long term. Second, it is imperative that an appropriate level of support is offered to those traumatised by the war, as well as extensive guidance and support for sponsors welcoming such individuals into their homes.
So far, these bespoke resettlement schemes have been implemented faster and more efficiently than past examples of humanitarian pathways in times of crisis, perhaps in response to public opinion. However, these are short term solutions, and we await announcements of lawful routes to longer term stay or settled status after 36 months.
Furthermore, the government must plan for the bottlenecks in the UK immigration system that will be caused by a significant number of leave to remain applications (of various kinds) in 6- and 36-months’ time.
Please contact your Magrath Sheldrick representative for further information.