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Home Office reconfirms Ukraine Schemes do not lead to settlement

27 February 2024

New Immigration Rules laid on 19 February 2024 have made immediate changes to the Ukraine Schemes, including closing the Ukraine Family Scheme. A separate announcement reconfirms that the Ukraine Schemes do not lead to settlement, but that an 18-month extension will be available for scheme participants from early 2025. Participants wishing to settle in the UK should urgently review their options ahead of restrictions to work and partner routes being implemented in March and April 2024.

Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules HC 556 signals a more restrictive approach to the immigration provisions for Ukrainian citizens and their family members, against the backdrop of a renewed UK government commitment to reduce net migration and the Ukraine government’s wish for its citizens to return to the country when it is safe to do so.

What immediate changes have been made to the Ukraine Schemes?

The new Immigration Rules confirm that from 15:00 GMT on 19 February 2024:

  • The Ukraine Family Scheme has been closed to new applicants, leaving only the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme and the Ukraine Extension Scheme currently open;
  • Additional grounds for refusal will be applied to Ukraine Scheme applicants, including previously breaching UK immigration laws or failing to provide required information etc.; and
  • A grant of permission under the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme is now for 18 months instead of 36 months.

The Ukraine Extension Scheme is due to close from 16 May 2024. However, the new Rules confirm that a child born in the UK after 18 March 2022 to a Ukraine Scheme participant will continue to be able to make an application under the Extension Scheme after this date. They will have immigration permission granted in line with their parent(s).

Separately, the Government has confirmed that a sponsor under the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme now must be a British or Irish citizen, or settled in the UK. Previously, any person holding at least six months’ UK immigration permission at the date of the visa application could act as a sponsor.

What has been announced on extension of permission under the Ukraine Schemes?

A Government news story published on 19 February 2024 states that from early 2025, existing Ukraine Scheme participants will begin to be able to apply to the new Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme. Individuals who have permission outside the Rules because they required sanctuary in the UK will be able to apply. Extension applications should be made within three months of the existing permission expiring.

Further details of the scheme will be made available in the coming months, however it is already confirmed that successful applicants will be issued with permission to stay in the UK for a further 18 months, with the same access rights to work, benefits, healthcare and education as their current permission.

The news story also reconfirms the UK Government’s position that the Ukraine Schemes are a temporary protection route. They are not intended to lead to settlement in the UK.

Why should Ukraine Scheme participants act now if they wish to settle in the UK?

Over half of respondents to a recent survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics have indicated they would wish to remain in the UK even if Ukraine becomes safe to return to.

Ukraine Scheme participants currently have immigration permission that is not due to expire until March 2025 at the earliest. It is a free scheme, and it is possible the Government’s position on settlement may change in the future.

However, participants who wish to settle in the UK should consider urgently reviewing their immigration options if they have not already done so. This is because:

  • Restrictions due in March and April 2024 to work and partner routes mean that some individuals who are currently eligible to apply may no longer be once the changes come into effect; and
  • Time spent under the Ukraine Schemes does not currently count towards the five-year qualifying period required for settlement under work routes or the five or ten-year qualifying period required for settlement under the partner route.

If you have any queries about this topic, please contact a member of our Immigration Team.

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