UK Offers Ukrainian Visa Holders an 18-Month Visa Extension

| February 20, 2024
UK Offers Ukrainian Visa Holders an 18-Month Visa Extension

Ukrainians who sought refuge in the United Kingdom (UK) after the Russian invasion will be able to stay until 2026.

The UK government has announced an 18-month visa extension for Ukrainian visa holders, according to a Home Office statement on 19 February 2024.

Tom Pursglove, UK Minister for Legal Migration and the Border, said the visa extension “provides certainty and reassurance” for Ukrainians in the UK.

“We will continue to provide a safe haven for those fleeing the conflict,” he stated.

The announcement comes as the second anniversary of Russia’s “unprovoked, premeditated and illegal” war against Ukraine approaches.

Three Ukrainian visa schemes offered by the UK

The British government had set up three UK visa schemes for Ukrainians affected by the war.

The Ukraine Family Scheme allows Ukrainians who are settled in the UK to bring their family members into the country.

On the other hand, the Homes for Ukraine scheme permits Ukrainians to stay with a sponsoring UK family. This is also known as the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme.

Lastly, the Ukraine Extension Scheme allows Ukrainians who were granted permission to stay in the UK between 18 March 2022 and 16 November 2023 to extend their stay.

This is regardless of whether they have continuous permission or if their previous permission expired on or after 1 January 2022.

Ukrainian visa holders under the three schemes were allowed to stay in the UK for three years. The 18-month extension will be available to all of them.

Ukrainians who were granted Leave Outside the Rules (LOTR) will also be eligible.

LOTR is usually only issued in cases with exceptional, compelling, or compassionate grounds.

In this case, Ukrainians were given LOTR because they required sanctuary from the war.

Along with the visa extension, Ukrainian visa holders can continue to have the right to work, benefits, healthcare, and education.

The process for extending Ukrainian visas will begin in early 2025. The first visas issued in 2022 are set to expire in March 2025.

This means individuals holding the earliest Ukrainian special visas can remain in the UK until at least September 2026.

Visa holders can apply within the last three months of their existing visa.

UK calls for more families to sponsor Ukrainian refugees

Since introducing Ukraine visa programs, the UK has offered sanctuary to approximately 283,000 Ukrainians.

This was possible primarily due to British families sponsoring displaced Ukrainians.

“Families across the country have opened their homes and their hearts to the people of Ukraine, showing extraordinary generosity,” said Pursglove.

The Guardian reports that as of 12 February, there have been 143,400 arrivals through the Homes for Ukraine program and 56,800 via the Ukraine Family Scheme.

Another 31,400 have been granted extensions under the Ukraine Family Scheme and the Ukraine Extension Scheme.

The UK Minister for Housing, Homelessness and Communities, Felicity Buchan, encouraged more UK families to sponsor refugees.

“As more families arrive, we will need more sponsors to come forward,” said Buchan, urging those interested to check their eligibility and apply as soon as possible.

The Homes for Ukraine visa program provides a monthly sponsorship payment to participating British families.

The payment is £350 per month for the first year and increases to £500 per month in the second year.

As announced in the autumn budget, the monthly sponsorship payments will be extended for a third year.

Visa extension based on belief Ukraine will be safe again

The British government also stated that the visa extension stemmed from its “strong belief that Ukraine will be safe again.”

It aligns with the Ukrainian government’s hope that its citizens will “eventually return to the country when it is safe.”

According to a ministerial statement, the UK is closing the Ukrainian Family Scheme to new applicants effective 19 February 2024.

Those who are eligible for this scheme will be able to apply for the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme instead. 

However, the length of new visas issued under the Homes for Ukraine scheme will be reduced from 36 months to 18 months.

This is comparable to the period offered to those extending their permission under the new 18-month extension.

On the other hand, the Ukraine Extension Scheme will remain open beyond the current closure date of 16 May 2024 for UK-born children of Ukrainian visa holders. 

Eduard Fesko, the charge d’affaires at the Ukrainian embassy, stated the visa extension was “a clear signal of the continuous support” from the UK.

“We appreciate all the help and assistance that our UK friends so generously provide for the temporarily displaced Ukrainians,” he said.

The UK is also set to provide £11.8 billion in military, humanitarian, and economic support to Ukraine.

Lower humanitarian route arrivals in 2023

According to 2023 migration trends, Ukraine is one of the significant contributors to migration due to the war.

However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) June 2023 data show that humanitarian visa arrivals are decreasing.

Only nine percent of the UK’s 2023 net migration numbers were on humanitarian routes from Ukraine and Hong Kong.

It shows a significant decrease from 19 percent in the past year.