Boris Johnson promises to make it easier for Ukrainians with relatives in the UK to get visas

Amid confusion over what the current policy is to support Ukrainian refugees, Priti Patel is expected to give an update today
Thousands of protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square at the weekend as the war in Ukraine continues. Photo: Vuk Valcic/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

01 Mar 2022

The government will “make it easier” for Ukrainians with relatives in the UK to get visas, Boris Johnson has promised.

Home secretary Priti Patel is expected to announce more details today on which Ukrainians will be eligible for refugee visas amid confusion over the government’s policy in response to the refugee crisis sparked by last week's Russian invasion.

After widespread criticism of the lack of visa options for those seeking refuge from the war in Ukraine, the prime minister and Patel have made several announcements in the last 48 hours claiming there will be more support for Ukrainians but without making clear what changes will be made.

Planned changes to the policy could include extending the scheme to adult parents, grandparents, children over 18 and siblings of those already settled in the UK, according to various reports.

The prime minister claimed today, on a visit to Poland, that the plans to “make it easier” for Ukrainian refugees with family in the UK could mean more than 200,000 Ukrainian refugees.

Patel, speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, rejected calls to issue a visa waiver for Ukrainians fleeing the war over security concerns but said an additional 100,000 Ukrainians could be able to come for 12 months before needing to apply for asylum.

The 12-month offer falls short of the EU’s plan to allow Ukrainians to stay in EU countries for at least three years before having to apply for asylum.

But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper slammed the plan as “extremely unclear”, saying Patel had failed to clarify who was eligible for the visa following a “weekend of complete confusion”.

“The home secretary has just said she's announcing a bespoke humanitarian route, but it's extremely unclear from what she said what the details actually are or who it will apply to,” she said.

“Why is there so much confusion about this? How on earth is the Home Secretary so poorly prepared for something she's been warned about for so many weeks?”

The only existing routes for Ukrainians considering fleeing to the UK are the family migration, skilled worker, student or seasonal worker visas, or a 12-month stay for those with British family living in Ukraine if they do not meet these requirements.

Patel’s statement suggested this 12-month offer would be extended those in Ukraine with British family living in the UK.

When contacted by CSW, the Home Office was unable to provide any clarity on what changes it has made to policy on Ukrainian refugees.

The most up-to-date information published by the department says only particular relatives of Brits living in Ukraine qualify for a family migration visa: a spouse, civil partner or cohabiting unmarried partner; a child under the age of 18; a parent, if the British national is under 18; or a cohabiting adult relative who is also a carer.

A line was added to the guidance on Sunday to say that “there may be cases where some people do not meet the eligibility criteria, for example the English language requirement or minimum income requirement”.

“Given the current circumstances, if somebody does not meet these requirements, [UK Visas and Immigration] will consider an alternative grant of leave to come to the UK,” the document said.

Guidance on support for family members of British nationals in Ukraine, and Ukrainian nationals in Ukraine and the UK, has not yet been updated beyond this date.

The Home Office last week offered visa concessions for Ukrainians who are already in the UK on work, study or visit visas.

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