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This is a fast-moving situation and this information should be treated as up-to-date at the point of publication. The ‘UK visa support for Ukrainian nationals’ page on GOV.UK is regularly updated in line with policy developments.  

Visa requirements

Ukraine is on the UK’s list of visa national countries. All Ukrainians must apply for a visa before travelling to the UK for any purpose. Visa application facilities in Ukraine are closed so Ukrainians are being directed to use those in neighbouring countries.

The Government’s response to the crisis

The Government’s initial response focused on supporting British nationals living in Ukraine and their families. It has since introduced an expanded visa route for Ukrainians and relatives who have family in the UK. It also intends to launch a sponsored visa route for Ukrainians without family links in the UK.

It is not known how many people might be eligible under the visa measures announced so far. The Government has not set any numerical limits.

The Government continues to come under pressure from Members across the political divide, the Welsh and Scottish Governments, and many campaigners, to help a wider range of people leave Ukraine.

Some campaigners argue that Ukrainians’ difficulties accessing UK visa routes illustrate that bespoke immigration routes are an inappropriate and inadequate response to refugee-producing situations. There have been some calls for the UK to adopt a broader humanitarian response, based on the principles of international refugee law, to enable more people fleeing Ukraine to access protection in the UK.

Bespoke visa options for people in Ukraine

People with UK family ties

The Ukraine Family Scheme is a new visa route for immediate and extended family members of British nationals and non-British nationals living in the UK. The UK-based relative must have indefinite leave or pre-settled status. The Home Office is considering extending eligibility to relatives of people with temporary permission to stay (such as students and workers).  

Successful applicants are given three years’ permission to stay in the UK, with the right to work, study and access public funds. The visa is free of charge.

From 15 March, Ukrainian applicants who have a biometric passport will be able to complete the entire visa application process online without having to attend a visa application centre. Applicants who do not have a biometric passport will still need to attend a visa application centre.

People without family links in the UK

The Government intends to establish a new ‘humanitarian support pathway’. This scheme will enable Ukrainians who do not have family connections in the UK to be sponsored to come by communities, charities, and businesses in the UK. It will be led by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. It is not yet known when it will open to applications or what the eligibility criteria will be.

Calls to abolish visa requirements

A public petition on the Parliament website calling on the UK Government to waive all visa requirements for Ukrainian passport holders will be debated on 14 March.

Restrictions on which relatives are eligible for Ukraine Family Scheme visas, and reports of applicants encountering practical difficulties when trying to apply, have contributed to calls for the Government to abolish the visa requirement for Ukrainians.

Campaigners argue that this would be the fastest and simplest way to increase the speed and scale of the UK’s response to people fleeing Ukraine.

The Government has consistently rejected these calls. It cites concerns about security risks and emphasises the importance of verifying applicants’ identities through biometric checks. However, it has broadened the eligibility criteria for the Ukraine Family visa several times and taken various measures to increase the speed, accessibility and efficiency of the visa issuing process. It continues to keep arrangements under review.

Supporters of removing the visa requirement argue that security and biometric checks would still be undertaken if Ukrainians had the same visa-free access to the UK as certain other nationalities.

In comparison, Ukrainians with biometric passports have been able to travel to most European countries and stay for up to 90 days without a visa for several years. Ireland (a non-Schengen country) lifted its visa requirement for Ukrainian nationals with effect from 25 February. EU Member States have also recently decided to implement the Temporary Protection Directive for people displaced by the military action in Ukraine. This establishes various EU-wide minimum standards for their treatment, including a legal status in the host state for up to three years. 

Visa concessions for Ukrainians in the UK

The Home Office has announced some temporary concessions for Ukrainians in the UK who have expiring visas and are unable to leave.

The usual restrictions on extending visas or switching immigration category whilst in the UK are being relaxed. But Ukrainians are still subject to the other eligibility criteria and conditions attached to the visa they are applying for. These may include, for example, having no recourse to public funds and restrictions on rights to work and bring family members to the UK.

How many Ukrainians live in the UK?

Preliminary figures from the 2021 Census in England and Wales identify approximately 37,530 people who were born in Ukraine and were ‘usual residents’ in England and Wales in March 2021.

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