UK visa information following Russian invasion of Ukraine - March 2022

Update 10th March - The Home Secretary has announced that, from Tuesday (presumably 15th March), Ukrainians applying for visas to come to the UK under the Ukraine Family Visa Scheme and who have passports will be able to make their applications on-line and receive confirmations without needing to attend a Visa Application Centre. They will still be required to provide biometrics (digital fingerprints and photos) but can do so once in the UK. This should make the process much more straightforward from a practical point of view and it is said that this will enable staff to focus on applications from those who do not have passports. It is also understood that capacity in the relevant Visa Application Centres will be increased, with more appointments available. The Home Secretary's announcement can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/home-secretary-update-on-support-for-ukrainians

The situation with Ukrainian nationals fleeing Ukraine and making their way to the UK is evolving. We wish everyone affected by the current situation all the very best and want to help in whatever way we can but, unfortunately things are not currently straightforward. For general information, the resources below may be of some use (needless to say, existing ASG clients affected in any way by the current situation should contact us in the usual way). Please note that any of the information below may change at any time so it is important to check carefully before making plans.

Note that Ukrainian citizens are on the UK's list of 'visa nationals', which means they are unable to come to the UK for any purpose without obtaining a visa first. Thus, arriving at a port of entry and being admitted after a conversation with an Immigration Officer, even with a valid passport, is not an option - and this is not being waived at the present time. Although the situation may be more complicated just now, in theory, all the usual immigration routes are available for those who meet the criteria. Applications for visas under these categories require documents that may not be readily available to those fleeing but some concessions have been put in place regarding these documents, providing reasons can be given for them not being available. There is also the issue of visa issuing posts in Ukraine being shut and ones in neighbouring countries having higher than usual workloads. For anyone interested in the regular routes, applications can be made in the usual way, with or without the assistance of immigration lawyers/advisers. Regular routes include coming to the UK as a visitor, for up to six months. At present, a visit visa may be granted to those who can show compelling and/or compassionate reasons for visiting and intend to leave at or before the end of the six months.

The comments below focus on the special arrangements put in place for the current situation.

For those who are currently fleeing to safety (having resided in Ukraine on or immediately before 1st January 2022) and have family members who are British or settled in the UK in the UK, the Ukraine Family Visa Scheme has been set up. As this scheme may change in the coming days, rather than summarise it here, it is more advisable to view the link on the UK government website: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-ukraine-family-scheme-visa Note that this scheme is just for those where the UK family member(s) is/are British or settled (i.e. have indefinite leave to remain / permanent residence) but does not apply where the family member(s) is/are in the UK with temporary visa status (or illegally). It does, however, include EU nationals with 'Pre-settled status' and those who have refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK. Visas can be issued for up to three years under this scheme, are free of charge and permit holders to work and access public funds.

The UK government website also has this page with general advice: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/support-for-family-members-of-british-nationals-in-ukraine-and-ukrainian-nationals-in-ukraine-and-the-uk

Visa Application Centres - there is talk of special application centres being set up in Calais and on the way north to Calais but the details are not yet clear. Ordinarily, each UK Visa Application Centre only accepts applications from people within a particular region but, at present, those affected by the current situation can apply at any centre. Do note, however, that these are run by the UK government's outsourced partners and do not provide advice on visas. Most also operate an appointment system so just turning up isn't an option; attendance in person is usually a part of the process after an application has been made on-line and an appointment has been confirmed. Regional centres include the following (please refresh as necessary because opening times, etc. may change on short notice) (see 10th March update above):

Hungary (Budapest)
Poland (Warsaw)
Romania (Bucharest)
Moldova (Chisinau)
France (Paris)
Belgium (Brussels)

Note that, although of only relatively minor benefit, there is currently no requirement for completion of Passenger Locator Forms or Covid testing before or after arrival for those who began their journey in Ukraine. Carriers (airlines, ferry, rail and bus companies) may have their own requirements for documentation so please check everything at every stage and be prepared for delays.

For those with no family members in the UK, the UK government has announced the potential for a sponsorship scheme, although the details have not yet been published. To check for updates as these become available, please use this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/further-support-for-ukrainians-fleeing-russia-invasion

If you are a Ukrainian who is already in the UK with a valid visa, note that there are a number of concessions in place due to obvious concerns about the current situation and returning at the end of your stay. These include being able to extend visas and switch to other visas, including visitors switching to the family members scheme, without leaving the country as well as extensions for seasonal workers and some other temporary workers until the end of 2022. These depend on individual circumstances however https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ukrainian-nationals-in-the-uk-visa-support

Current situation with Visa Application Centres in Russia - at present these remain open and are accepting applications and offering biometric appointments. So far, there have been no notifications issued by the UK government, or announcements from its outsourced partners, with regard to closure of these centres or with regard to applicants residing in Russia as to whether they can submit their UK visa applications from other countries.

Other resources:

  • A UK government telephone helpline can be called on +44 808 164 8810 (from outside the UK) and on 0808 1648810 (from within the UK). Select option #1 if you are Ukrainians with family in the UK or option #2 if you are already in the UK with a valid visa. This line is open from 9am to 4.45pm from Monday to Thursday and 9am to 4.30pm on Fridays (excluding bank holidays)
  • Ukraine Advice Project UK aims to link Ukrainians and others fleeing Ukraine with specialist lawyers who can help - please use this link https://advice-ukraine.co.uk/ or this e-mail address ukraine@freemovement.org.uk
  • The Homes for Ukraine scheme that will match UK residents who have suitable accommodation with Ukrainians seeking it has been announced and is gradually opening up – information is available on the government website here https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk/

Please note that, while we hope the above information is useful, advice should be taken in specific cases and no responsibility can be taken for action taken based solely on the comments made above. This is of particular importance in a rapidly evolving situation such as this, where things can change with little or no notice.

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