The Ukraine schemes: two years on

Legal Updates

the Ukrainian flag presented as a yellow hand and a blue hand embracing

The Ukraine Family Scheme, Homes for Ukraine Scheme, and Ukraine Extension Scheme were launched to enable Ukrainians to come to the UK following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. 

It estimated that over 200,000 Ukrainians have sought safety in the UK under these schemes. However, they have been criticised for their temporary nature – which has been limited even further as time has gone on. 

In its research brief published on 30 January 2024, MIGZEN compares the Hong Kong BNO and Ukraine schemes, and to the rights (or lack of rights) of people seeking asylum in the UK. You can read a summary here, and the full report here. The report concludes that:

In the context of the UK’s post-Brexit migration regime and its increasing restrictions on the right to claim asylum, the opening up of bespoke routes for Hong Kongers and Ukrainians to migrate to the UK on humanitarian grounds is often framed as evidence of the UK government’s commitment to provide international protection for the most vulnerable. If contrasted with the curtailment of rights experienced by asylum seekers, the provisions included in the humanitarian visas are certainly more generous. However, as we have evidenced in this report, there are also significant reasons for concern, especially in relation to the temporary nature of the protection afforded to Ukrainians and the restrictions in access to public services for Hong Kongers.”

This simple blog provides an overview of the Ukraine schemes, two years on, and lists some useful organisations and initiatives for Ukrainians in (or on their way to) the UK.

Overview of the Ukraine schemes

The Ukraine Family Scheme reunited Ukrainians with their families already living in the UK, Homes for Ukraine enabled Ukrainians to live with a sponsor in the UK, and the Extension Scheme was launched for Ukrainians who were already in the UK on work or other visas when the war started. 

In February 2024, the Home Office published a Statement of Changes which closed the Ukraine Family Scheme without notice. The Home Office said that people would be able to use the Homes for Ukraine scheme instead, but changes were also made to this scheme which significantly curbed the rights of Ukrainians to reach safety in the UK. 

The charity Settled has outlined the key impacts of these changes as follows:

“The Ukraine Family scheme has ended with immediate effect.

  • To make a new application to the Homes For Ukraine scheme, the potential sponsor needs to be either British, Irish, or have EUSS settled status. This means that a Ukrainian resident in the UK under a Ukraine visa scheme can no longer be a sponsor.
  • Successful applications submitted from [19 February 2024] will now be granted visas for 18 months. Any pending applications submitted before this date will still be granted visas for 36 months if successful.
  • The Home Office has said that the process for ‘Permission to Extend’ existing visas will be opened from January 2025. We await detailed guidance on this.”

Beyond the Statement of Changes, we await more detailed guidance from the Home Office about what will be done for the Ukraine schemes, and Ukrainians in the UK. Given that Parliament has now dissolved, it seems that we will not receive that guidance until after the General Election, under a potential new government.

The changes to the already limited Ukraine schemes make it clear that these options are temporary, and have now been significantly limited. 

Helpful resources and organisations

Opora

Opora is a registered charity which provides information and a support hub to Ukrainians in the UK (in English and Ukrainian). They provide information on topics such as the Ukraine schemes, children, housing, employment, and mental health support. You can access their website here.

Ukraine Advice Project UK

The Ukraine Advice Project helps to connect Ukrainians (both those inside and outside of the UK) with lawyers who provide free advice. Crucially, the resource operates only in English – so if you cannot speak English, you will need a friend to help you get in touch. Also, the lawyers are not able to provide advice on how to get out of Ukraine to get to the UK.  

You can access their website here.

Settled

Settled is a charity which was founded in 2019 to support EU nationals in the UK to help them access their rights post-Brexit. They have a dedicated Ukraine Advice Service which provides the following services: 

  • Where appropriate we escalate complex or very delayed cases to the UK Home Office.
  • Free one-on-one advice in Ukrainian or English. To access this service, email ukraineadvice@settled.org.uk. If necessary, Settled can call you internationally.
  • Access Settled’s Ukrainian-language Facebook group here for answers to general questions.

Access Settled’s information pages on Homes for Ukraine, Extension schemes, and more by clicking here.

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