UK Visas and Immigration

Getting safely out of Ukraine

Ukraine does not allow most men aged 18 to 60 to leave the country. But other Ukrainians can find refuge abroad. On the 28th of February, EU countries (but not the UK) unanimously agreed to welcome Ukrainians for up to three years, without needing to apply for asylum. Neighbouring countries of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova are also providing immediate assistance with food, accommodation, and transit. 

Please plan your travel carefully. At the time of writing, Ukraine's airspace was closed. Anyone wanting to leave Ukraine will have to do so using alternative means, and there were reports of very long queues at the border. Please check a trusted news source to see if travel by road or train is safe, check the embassy channels of the country of destination, and proceed with caution. 

Coming to the UK from Ukraine

Unfortunately, the UK still requires Ukrainians to hold a visa to enter. If you are abroad and are looking to come to the UK, the Home Office introduced two schemes:

  • The Ukraine Family Scheme - for Ukrainian nationals and their immediate family members of any nationality, who are joining relatives in the UK.
  • The Homes for Ukraine Scheme - for Ukrainian nationals and their immediate family members of any nationality, who are joining a sponsor.

Ukraine Family Scheme: Joining a family member settled in the UK

On 04 March 2022, the UK Government introduced a new Ukraine Family Scheme. It is free to apply, and it will give you the right to live, work, study in the UK and access public funds for up to 3 years. The government aims to prioritise these applications and make decisions as soon as possible. But some conditions apply.

The scheme is open for Ukrainian nationals (and their immediate family of any nationality) who are joining a family member who normally lives in the UK. To qualify, you must have been residing in Ukraine prior to 01 January 2022 (even if you are now sheltering abroad). But note: if you are already in the UK or if the application is for a child born or adopted on or after that date, you can still apply.

Your UK-based family member must be a British national, or anyone who lives in the UK and has:

  • settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS);
  • pre-settled status under the EUSS;
  • Indefinite Leave to Remain or permanent residence in the UK;
  • refugee or humanitarian protection in the UK. 

In terms of your relationship, the scheme is open to Ukrainians who are joining immediate family, and extended family (see page 10 of the guidance).

Immediate family refers to your:

  • spouse, fiancé(e), or partner;
  • child under 18;
  • parent of a child aged under 18 (if this is the child of your UK-based family).

Extended family refers to your:

  • children and grandchildren over 18;
  • parents and grandparents;
  • siblings;
  • aunts or uncles;
  • cousins;
  • nieces or nephews;
  • in-laws;
  • step-siblings.

The scheme is also open to the immediate family members of your extended family. This means their spouse, civil partner, or fiancé(e); their child under 18, the parent of a child under 18 (if that child is your extended family).

If you join someone in the UK as their spouse, civil partner, or fiancé(e), the relationship must have started before 01 January 2022.

To apply to the Ukraine Family Scheme use the online formOn 10 March, the Home Secretary announced that Ukrainians with biometric passports will no longer have to go to a Visa Application Centre to give their biometrics before entering the UK. In this case, once your online application has been submitted, checks will be carried out and you will be notified if you are eligible and can come to the UK. Once in Britain, you will then be required to give your biometrics within six months of arrival - children under five will only need a face photo. Please note: this change was implemented on 15th March.

If you do not have a biometric passport, apply online. You will then be redirected to book and attend an appointment at a Visa Application Centre in Europe. At the appointment you will need to have your photograph and fingerprints taken. You will also need to provide your proof of identity. 

What if I don’t have a valid passport?

There are other ways to prove your identity, including:

  • A recently expired passport - for over 25s, it can’t have exceeded its expiry date by more than 10 years. For under 25s, it can’t have exceeded its expiry date by more than five years.
  • Ukrainian National ID card ('internal passport')
  • UK-issued BRC or BRP. 
  • A combination of ‘other official documents’, one of which contains your photo. For example: a photo driving licence submitted alongside a birth certificate. 
  • An emergency certificate issued by a Ukrainian authority since March 2022.

What if I don’t have any alternative documents?

You can still apply but you will have to explain why you don’t have these documents. Try to think of any other documentation you might have that could evidence your identity and nationality.

Which Visa Application Centre should I go to?

The visa centres in Kyiv and Lviv are closed, but other are open in Rzeszvow (Poland), and across Europe.

Applying to the scheme from inside the UK

You can apply online for the Ukraine Family Scheme if you are in the UK. You will then need to book and attend an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point. At this appointment you will be required to give your biometric information. You will be contacted once a decision has been made. 

If you are in the UK and you need help, you can call the free UKVI 24/7 helpline on 0808 164 8810.

What are the entry requirements?

If you want to come to the UK on this scheme you must apply for entry clearance (i.e. a visa). However, if you arrive at a UK border without the correct entry clearance but meet the family relationship requirements set out in UKR 5.1-5.4 of the Rules, you should be considered for leave outside the rules for six months. You can then apply to switch onto the Ukraine Scheme from the UK and may be granted permission to stay if you meet the eligibility requirements and were resident in the Ukraine on or before 1 January 2022. 

Joining a family member under the EUSS

EU nationals who live in the UK and obtained status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) have the right to bring certain family members. You can join them if you are their:

  • spouse or civil partner;
  • durable partner (if you've started your relationship before 31 Dec 2020, and you've been together for two years);
  • child, grandchild, or great-grandchild under 21 years old (including those of the EU national's partner);
  • dependent parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent (including those of the EU national's partner).

To join your family under the EUSS you will need ID, and evidence of your relationship. The application process then depends on your nationality.

  • If you have Ukrainian nationality (or another non EU nationality), you will need to apply for something called the EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit before you travel to the UK. This will give you leave to enter. Once you're in the UK, you then have three months to apply to the EUSS
  • If you are a national of an EU country, you can travel to the UK and apply to the EUSS online, within 90 days of entering the country.

Contact our team and we can help with your application. You can also learn more about the EUSS on our dedicated Brexit FAQ page, or read the Home Office guidance.

⚠️Caution. Many applicants reported waiting for months before they received a family permit. The new Ukraine Family Scheme may be a faster router. On 04 March when this scheme was introduced, the government promised to prioritise applications made through this scheme. Think carefully about which scheme is best for you. You cannot apply to both. Updates to follow.

Homes for Ukraine: Ukrainians sponsored by someone in the UK

On 14 March, the UK government announced a new visa sponsorship scheme for Ukrainians who wish to come to the UK and do not qualify for a family visa. Under the new scheme, known as Homes for Ukraine, sponsored Ukrainians will have the right to work, rent, study, and access public funds in the UK for up to 3 years. Details of the scheme are still emerging, but here is what we know so far.

Who can come to the UK through this scheme? 

The scheme is open to anyone escaping the war in Ukraine. But it looks like they will need to have a UK-based sponsor first. The sponsor can be a person of any nationality and any immigration status (they will need to have at least 6 months valid leave to remain when they apply), who is willing to offer Ukrainians a place to live in the UK for a minimum of 6 months.

How can I sponsor someone fleeing the war in Ukraine? 

If you already know who you want to sponsor, you can make an application (see below). If you don’t, but would like to make your home available, you can register your interest. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) will contact you about your interest.

How to apply

Visa applications under this scheme opened on Friday 18 March to Ukrainians who are currently abroad and have a sponsor who can provide them with accommodation in the UK. Applications are made online and can be completed by either party (the person sponsoring or the person wishing to be sponsored). Each individual coming to the UK under this scheme needs a completed application form. So, if you are a couple being sponsored by the same person, you will need to complete separate forms. You and your sponsor will be subject to ‘security and safeguarding checks’. 

If you have a valid Ukrainian international passport or an expired passport with a formal extension stamp (issued by the Ukrainian government) you can complete the application online and  won’t have to attend an appointment at a VAC before you travel to the UK. You will have to upload a copy of the photograph page of your passport (plus the page with the extension stamp, if applicable). You will also need to prove the identity of your UK-based sponsor. This can be a copy of their driving licence, passport, BRP or national ID card.

Your application will be processed and you should receive an official permission letter from UKVI, confirming that you can travel to the UK. You will then need to submit your biometrics within six months of arriving in the UK to extend your stay for up to three years and be issued with a biometric residence permit (BRP). The online form to provide biometric information is not yet available, but will be soon. Updates to follow.

What if I don’t have a valid Ukrainian international passport?

You will need to book and attend an appointment at a Visa Application Centre

Can someone I don't know sponsor me?

There is a chance that people in the UK will have the option to volunteer to sponsor Ukrainians they have not met. If you live in the UK, you can register your interest online. We are still awaiting details of how this will work in practice.

Caution. The Homes for Ukraine scheme was launched very recently, and details are likely to emerge over the next few days. Please read the information on the UK Government's website carefullyUpdates to follow.

Ukrainians in the UK

If you are already in the UK, you have a few options. The Home Office has announced two new visa schemes and issued temporary visa concessions for Ukrainians living in the UK, so you won’t have to travel back if it’s not safe.

The Ukraine Family Scheme was opened on 04 March 2022. It gives you the right to live, work, and claim public funds in the UK for up to three years. It is open to Ukrainian nationals who have an immediate or extended family member in the UK. If you are applying from within the UK, you must have permission to be in the UK on the date of your application, or you must show that your permission to be in the UK expired on or after 01 January 2022. You can learn more and apply online.

The Ukraine Extension Scheme was announced on 29 March 2022. It will give you the right to live, work, and claim public funds in the UK for up to three years. It is open to Ukrainian nationals who had permission to stay in the UK on 18 March 2022, their partner and children (who are also in the UK). It is also open to Ukrainians whose permission to stay expired on or after 01 January 2022, and who had permission to stay immediately before that date. You can apply to the scheme for free here

During the application, you will need to upload documents that show you have (or had) permission to be in the UK. If you’re the non-Ukrainian family member of a Ukrainian national, you can still apply but will need to evidence your relationship to them (e.g. with a marriage certificate or evidence that you’ve been living together in a relationship for two years). Once you have made your application, you will need to make and attend an appointment at a UKVCAS service point to provide your biometric information. You can find more information on eligibility under the Ukraine Extension Scheme here

Concessions. If you can’t apply for any of these schemes, the Home Office has also announced some  concessions for Ukrainians already in the UK.

Visa extensions are available for Ukrainians on:

  • a points-based system;
  • seasonal worker visa, which will be extended to 31 December 2022;
  • temporary HGV driver or pork butcher visas. These will be extended to 31 December 2022, with the possibility to apply to the skilled worker route.

Visa switches are open to Ukrainian nationals on visitor visas, who can:

  • switch to the points-based immigration route without having to leave the UK;
  • apply to the family route for further leave without meeting the immigration status requirement, provided they meet the requirements for leave based on exceptional circumstances.

If you are on Seasonal Worker Visa, please contact your visa operator (i.e. Fruitful Jobs, Pro Force, Concordia or AG Recruitment) to ensure your visa will be extended, and follow Home Office advice closely. 

If your visa is about to expire. We contacted the Home Office helpline 03003032785 and were advised that you should apply for Exceptional Assurance. Free Movement explains that exceptional assurance is essentially a promise not to remove you from the UK. It is important to be aware that it is not formal immigration permission: getting an exceptional assurance “does not grant you leave”.

To request exceptional assurance, please write to cihassuranceteam@homeoffice.gov.uk with the subject header "Request for an assurance". Include your full name, date of birth, nationality, Home Office reference number, type of visa, expiry date of visa, and reason for request (eg: war in Ukraine).

The web page explaining Exceptional Assurance was created during Covid, when the exceptional reason why people needed to remain in the UK after their visa expired was illness. However, when we called the Home Office helpline on 25 Feb 2022 we were advised that the process is the same, even if the reason is now war in Ukraine. So don't be put off by the references to Covid. For up to date information, please contact the Home Office helpline 03003032785.

Undocumented?

If none of the aforementioned schemes or concessions apply to you, and you are or risk becoming undocumented in the UK, you should seek legal advice on other routes, including asylum.

If you need immigration advice

Pro bono solicitors. Several groups of volunteer legal professionals with immigration and asylum expertise were set up to provide free immigration advice to Ukrainian citizens affected by the war. Advice Ukraine focus on immigration in and to the UK, and can be contacted at ukraine@freemovement.org.uk Ukrainian Legal aid is an international consortium of solicitors, and can be contacted onlineYou can also contact the Immigration Advice Service for free legal advice, using the contact form on their website

Legal aid solicitors. If you are on a low income and need help from an immigration solicitor, you can search the list of legal aid providers. Legal aid is not "public funds" for the purpose of immigration rules, so you can apply even if you are on a visa that doesn't normally give you access to public funds (such as benefits).

Immigration advisers. You can also find an immigration adviser on the Home Office adviser finder tool. Select the level of advice required (we recommend OISC Level 2 or above) and the location. You can filter the search to view Not Fee Charging (free) advisers only. 

Private solicitors. You can find out about private solicitors (who may charge a fee) in your area via the Law Society's search engine.

Please remember. Bad advice can do more harm than good. Always ask the person giving you immigration advice to provide you with their OISC reference number, to ensure they are suitably qualified. You can check accredited advisers using the Home Office adviser finder tool. You can also get an overview of the level of accreditation needed for different type of immigration issues here.

Arriving in neighbouring countries

Poland

Ukrainian nationals escaping from the armed conflict can travel to Poland without the need for a visa. If you do not have a place of stay in Poland, go to the nearest reception point (see the full list on the Polish government's site). 

At the reception point:

  • You will receive more detailed information about your stay in Poland, including a leaflet, issued directly at the border crossing, that contains basic information for refugees in four languages - Ukrainian, Polish, Russian and English.
  • You will be provided with temporary accommodation in Poland.
  • You will receive a hot meal, drink, basic medical assistance and a place to rest.

If you need additional information, please call the following infoline: +48 47 721 75 75 or visit Polish government's website.

Romania

All Ukrainians escaping the conflict can enter Romania without a visa, and regardless of ID. Those with biometric passports can remain in the country for up to 90 days. Those without a passport will have to ask for asylum upon entry (or within 20 days). 

The Romanian Ministry of Defence issued a statement noting that Romania is prepared to welcome 500,000 Ukrainian refugees, with mobile camps on standby in the counties of Maramures, Suceava, Botosani and Iasi. In addition, there is also support from local residents and volunteers.

Romania’s National Sanitary Veterinary and Food Safety Authority (ANSVSA) has granted a temporary derogation from the observance of certain rules for the entry of pets from Ukraine on the national territory. This Facebook group can help Ukrainians looking for help caring for their animals.

Official information is available on the Romanian Government's website. The Romanian National Council for Refugees also provides regular updates on social media and can be contacted at the helpline: +40721206926

Hungary

On the 24th of February 2022 the Hungarian government announced that Ukrainians escaping the conflict will be granted temporary protection in Hungary. It is unclear whether they can also claim asylum in the country. Back in 2020, Hungary instituted a system whereby applications for asylum could only be lodged at the Hungarian embassies in Kyiv or Belgrade. The Hungarian government recently used an emergency mandate to grant Ukrainians temporary protection. But changing the asylum system will require a change in law, and this will take time. For the time being, Hungary offers Ukrainians temporary protection.

Moldova

Two temporary centres have been set up in Palanca and Ocnita to help manage the influx of people coming into the country. The centres provide basic humanitarian, legal and food assistance for a period of 72 hours.

Lithuania

Ukrainians arriving in Lithuania will be able to enter visa-free, and apply for a temporary residence permit or a national visa on humanitarian grounds. Liucija Voišnis, Deputy Director of the Migration Department has commented: “There will certainly be no requirement to apply for asylum.”

Lithuania has set up information tents on the border with Poland, and authorities are ready to take in 10,000 refugees.

Lithuania's Foreign Ministry has launched a hotline (+370 5 251 2764) for Lithuanian citizens in Ukraine. 

Slovakia

The Slovak government approved the provision of temporary shelter for citizens of Ukraine. The process will give Ukrainian citizens and their families quick and unlimited access to the labour market, health care, and for their children access to education. Under this regime, temporary protection is open to Ukrainian citizens and family (of any nationality) who can prove their identity with a passport, ID, or any other personal document with a picture of its holder plus birth certificate.

Slovakia has three border crossings with the Ukraine Vyšné Nemecké, Ubľa, and Veľké Slemence. In addition, the Ministry of Interior has established so-called hotspots in Ulíč, Ubľa, Vyšné Nemecké, Veľké Slemence and Čierna nad Tisou. These have been set up to cope with the volume of refugees and do not serve additional border crossing points.

Telephone numbers for Ukrainian nationals (also available from Ukraine):
+ 421 259 765 111

More information can be found on the Slovak government website ua.gov.sk.
Additional websites:
 www.ukraineslovakia.sk - information in Slovak, Ukrainian and English
 www.mic.iom.sk: information in Slovak, English and Russian
 https://bratislavskykraj.sk/ukrajina/ - Bratislava region information and contacts
for refugees in Slovak, English, German, Italian and Ukrainian
 www.pomocpreukrajinu.sk – information about available accommodation

 

How can you help

There are several things you can do, based on where you are, your resources, and what you'd like to focus on.

I'm in the UK

Call on the government to welcome Ukrainian refugees. Currently, Ukrainians still need a visa to enter the UK. You can join us and other charities in calling on the government to allow visa free travel from Ukraine. Write to your MP and councillors for free

Support a charity working in the region. Many charities are doing vital work on the ground in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries. The Guardian has put together a list of some of the organisations working in Ukraine. Several others are active in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. Your donations can help them purchase medical supplies, food, and other essential goods. Every little helps.

Support a charity working with Ukrainians in the UK. This includes us! We are one of the very few frontline organisations that speak Ukrainian, and can answer questions about employment and rights in the UK. Apply to join our team of Ukrainian-speaking volunteers, or make a small donation to our cause. 

I'm in a neighbouring country

Many people are organising support for refugees on social media, and new groups are likely to form over the next few days. Search for volunteering opportunities on social media (such as this volunteer group in Romania), and get in touch to offer your help. 

Report hate crime

Unfortunately, conflict between governments risks turning into social conflict. Please don't let that happen, and remember that ordinary individuals are not responsible for the actions of governments.

If you see someone being threatened, assaulted, harassed, or subjected to property damage because of their nationality, their accent, or what they look like, you're witnessing a hate crime. Please report it.

Call 999 if someone is in immediate danger or you're witnessing a crime in progress.

If the crime isn't an emergency, you can report it online, call 101, or contact your local police.