UK launches Homes for Ukraine scheme
16 March 2022
From Friday 18 March 2021, individuals will be able to act as sponsors for Ukrainian refugees and their immediate family members, if they are willing to offer them a room in their home or separate self-contained accommodation for a minimum period of six months. Details for sponsorship by businesses and other organisations will be released at a later date.
How does the scheme work?This is a sponsored scheme and is open for applications from 18 March 2022. It is intended for Ukrainians who do not have family ties to the UK such that they are eligible under the Ukraine Family Scheme. There is no cap on the number of people who can participate, other than that there must be a sponsor that they have matched with.
To be eligible, an applicant must be a Ukrainian citizen or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian citizen, and resident in Ukraine immediately before 1 January 2022. Applicants will have security checks undertaken as part of the application process.
Initially sponsors under the scheme must be individuals who are able to offer a spare room or separate self-contained accommodation to a Ukrainian refugee and their immediate family. They must be able to offer a commitment of a minimum of six months. Security checks on the sponsor side will also take place as part of the immigration application process.
Intending sponsors can provide their details directly into the immigration application of a person they wish to support, seek to be matched with an individual or family through a charity or other organisation, or register their interest on a dedicated campaign website. Details of how organisations, including businesses, can participate as sponsors will be released in the future.
Individuals who already know who they wish to sponsor will need to supply their details to the applicant so that these can be entered into the application form(s) once these become available on Friday 18 March 2022. Those who do not will need to be matched with individuals, either through informal networks or in coordination with charities or other organisations.
The Frequently asked questions cover a range of common queries about the scheme and its development. It is possible to sign up to receive email alerts when this this page is updated.
Application process and grant
The initial information published by the Government suggests that the scheme will be available only for individuals who are applying from outside the UK. Successful applicants will be granted immigration permission for up to three years, with work and access to public funds being permitted. Integration and housing support will also be included for participants.
Applicants outside the UK must either attend a Visa Application Centre (VAC) and provide their biometrics and passport or other identity documentation if they have this available, or, if they have a valid Ukrainian international passport, they can apply online without attending a VAC.
Those who apply via a VAC will receive a three-month entry clearance vignette, which will be placed in their passport if they have one, or may be issued on a free-standing letter. They will then be issued with a biometric residence permit (BRP) once they have arrived.
Those who apply online from outside the UK will receive an initial letter allowing them to enter the UK. They will be granted six months’ immigration permission by an immigration officer on entry and will then need to make a further application for immigration permission of up to three years duration. The in-country application will involve submitting an online application within six months of arrival and enrolling their biometrics at a UKVCAS service point. A BRP will be issued following approval.
Further clarification is awaited on whether initial in-country applications will be possible, e.g. from individuals already in the UK as a visitor.
Issues for individual sponsors to consider
This scheme has been developed at pace. The full implications of it and the support that will need to be offered to sponsors and participants has not yet been fully elaborated. One significant area the Government will need to address is access to adequate housing once sponsorship is no longer available, or if the sponsored accommodation is not large enough for family reunification. This is likely to be a significant possibility due to some family members currently remaining in Ukraine to serve in the armed forces or in essential occupations.
There are also property-related aspects to consider, some of which are explored here.
Further communications from the UK Government will be forthcoming over the coming days and months. Sponsors should receive direct communications from the Government during and following the completion of the application process. In the meantime, they may wish to register their interest as an individual so that they can ensure they receive relevant general updates.
From a practical perspective, aside from providing accommodation, sponsors will play a vital part in helping the people they host to access financial, healthcare, educational, English language and other immediate integration support.
Issues for employers to consider
Many employers are also considering measures aimed at assisting Ukrainian refugees and/or their families.
Sponsoring or recruiting scheme participantsDetails of how employers may be able to act as sponsors are not yet available. It is unclear if business sponsors will only be expected to provide or fund accommodation, or if they will be expected to offer something more extensive. Separately, a number of employers have formed a consortium to help connect Ukrainians arriving in the UK with employment opportunities. The current discrimination law framework restricts the scope for employers to discriminate in favour of some nationalities, or against other nationalities, in relation to recruitment. There are, however, a number of steps that employers could potentially take to support those escaping the war, including by donating to charities. Employers can also record their interest in directly sponsoring individuals to ensure that they are notified as soon as details of the business sponsorship route are released.
Right to work
Employers should be alert to the fact that the Homes for Ukraine and Ukraine Family Schemes are being processed in non-standard ways to facilitate the entry of eligible refugees into the UK as swiftly as possible. Some of the documents they will hold to evidence their right to work may be unfamiliar.
Evidence of immigration permission presented by a scheme participant could include:
- A visa vignette (sticker) endorsed onto a free-standing document
- A wet ink stamp in a passport giving immigration permission to enter the UK for six months, without any mention of no work or no recourse to public funds
- A BRP
COVID-19 adjusted manual right to work checks are in place up to and including 30 September 2022, and this process can be used for scheme participants with a visa vignette or wet ink stamp. Alternatively a fully compliant manual check can be completed.
Employers should note that from 6 April 2022, right to work checks for all BRP holders will need to be completed online. Some scheme participants may need assistance with generating the correct share code to enable an online right to work check to be carried out.
Switching into alternative immigration routes
The Homes for Ukraine scheme is generous in terms of it being a free immigration route with immediate access to work and public funds. However, it is not yet clear whether time spent in the UK with immigration permission under the scheme will lead to settlement, either on its own, or if it will be counted towards the continuous residence period under existing settlement routes. Immigration policy will need to respond to developments in the conflict in Ukraine as they arise.
In the meantime, those who want the security of being able to settle in the UK may wish to switch into another UK immigration route they are eligible for, and it is open to employers to support this, e.g. for an employee who is eligible under the Skilled Worker route.
We will continue to provide updates on significant developments as they arise.