Payne Hicks Beach

Payne Hicks Beach

04 March 2022

Ukraine: Refuge in the UK

On 1 March 2022, the Secretary of State ("SSHD") announced an expansion for family reunification and a sponsored humanitarian visa route. Following this, the Home Office then updated its guidance on 2 March 2022. These new routes will: (1) allow Ukrainians who are extended family members to apply to the Ukraine Family Scheme from Friday (4 March 2022); and (2) permit Ukrainians with no ties to the UK to come here if sponsored by communities, private sponsors or local authorities.

The Home Office also appears to be reviewing its policy on asylum claims by Ukrainian citizens who are already in the UK or who make their way here in future. The situation is changing rapidly and the government is publishing new policy on a near daily basis. The below represents the state of play at the time of writing.

Local Sponsorship Scheme for Ukraine

As part of the same announcement, the SSHD also declared a new scheme for Ukrainians with no ties to the UK to come here.

An example of how it could be used would be for an NGO or local authority to sponsor Ukrainian orphans, who otherwise have no ties to the UK. This route has the potential to be an extremely effective humanitarian tool, if managed properly. It could mirror the more lenient policies that Europe is instigating, as we discussed in our article of 1 March 2022.

Again, at the time of writing, there is no scheme officially set up and it remains rather vague in terms of requirements. The release by the Home Office[1] notes that the applicant will require sponsorship. The list of possible sponsors includes communities, private sponsors or local authorities. An applicant on this route will also be entitled to work in the UK and an initial grant of 12 months leave with access to public services.

It is unclear how to define a sponsor at this stage; the current language used is extremely vague. For example, what constitutes a community? The new guidance clarifies that a possible sponsor will need to apply to the Home Office. However, given the urgency of the situation this has the potential to delay the extraction of people in need even further.

This has serious potential to allow applicants to fall through the gaps. Will applicants need to obtain sponsorship themselves or will a sponsor simply be allocated to them? We can only wait for further clarity in the guidance, which is set to be "published soon".

There will be "no limit" to the Local Sponsorship Scheme for Ukraine. However, it remains to be seen how effective this scheme will be, when it can be implemented and whether the Home office will grant the same concessions they are with the Ukraine Family Scheme, with regard to requirements.

Ukraine Family Scheme

As noted in our articles dated 24 February and 25 February, the Home Office has already released concessions and is allowing Ukrainian nationals to obtain visas to join a British national or an individual with permanent residence in the UK. Furthermore, the concessions are permitting the extension or ability to switch routes if already present in the UK.

This route can be found here. It will require the completion of an online application form and then attendance of a biometric appointment at any Visa Application Centre in Europe.

This route will "allow extended family members of British nationals and people settled in the UK to come. This will include parents, grandparents, adult children and siblings from Ukraine, as well as immediate family members". Each of the listed extended family members will also be entitled to bring their immediate family members with them. This scheme will continue to be free and involve an initial grant of permission of 3 years with the right to work and public funds.

An applicant must provide documentary evidence relating to the relationship requirements specified in Appendix FM-SE. For example, evidence that a marriage or civil partnership is valid in the UK or a birth certificate to show familial ties. It is worth noting that normal requirements for salary or language tests are being waived, given the circumstances. Security checks will continue to take place, which is part of the biometric procedure. The Home Office has stated they are accelerating these checks to process applications as quickly as possible.

Applicants may be unable to provide the full range of documents required for the family route under which they are applying. If this is the case, the application must contain an explanation of why they cannot provide a required document. Fortunately, given the circumstances, a caseworker does not require detailed evidence as to why a document is unavailable. Under their own guidance, the Home Office must take a reasonable approach to what applicants could be expected to provide.[2]

Asylum

This week the Home Office has withdrawn its country policy and information notes on Ukraine. This suggests that the government is reassessing its policy with regard to asylum claims by Ukrainians.

Asylum seekers from Ukraine can legitimately argue that they have a well-founded fear of persecution on the grounds of Ukrainian nationality given the conduct of the Russian military. Even if an applicant does not meet the criteria for asylum, they may still be at real risk of unlawful killing or serious harm, which would make them eligible for humanitarian protection.

Nationality and Borders Bill

In the SSHD's announcement of 1 March she also stated that the government would bring forward amendments to visa penalty measures in the Nationality and Borders Bill. We have previously set out our thoughts on this proposed legislation in our article dated 25 January 2022. The Bill is currently at the Report stage in the House of Lords. The SSHD's justification for this is to "slow down and effectively stop the processing of Russian visas". Although, this will be applicable to any state that poses a threat to the UK's national security or the security of allies. This means we are likely to start seeing extended processing times for Russians who have no links, whatsoever, to Putin.

If you have any questions regarding the new schemes, please get in contact with our Citizenship and Immigration Team

 

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/further-support-for-ukrainians-fleeing-russia-invasion

[2]https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1057364/Concession_to_the_Immigration_Rules_for_Ukrainian_nationals_on_family_routes.pdf

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This publication is not intended to provide a comprehensive statement of the law and does not constitute legal advice and should not be considered as such. It is intended to highlight some issues current at the date of its preparation. Specific advice should always be taken in order to take account of individual circumstances and no person reading this article is regarded as a client of this firm in respect of any of its contents.

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