UK Visa Application Process for Ukrainian Refugees
We describe the 3 visa schemes (Family, Extension and Homes for Ukraine) available to those fleeing the war in Ukraine on this webpage: Ukrainian Refugee UK Visa Types. We advise reading this first to understand which visa type is the most suitable for your circumstances.
For Homes for Ukraine, we also describe some options for finding a host or sponsor, or a Ukrainian to sponsor, on this webpage: Finding a UK Sponsor.
If you are a Ukraine visa holder yourself, and you are looking to bring your relatives over to the UK, please read this webpage: Bringing Relatives to the UK.
Here, we describe some key points about the actual visa application and decision process.
Based on our experience (and that of 1000s of other successful applications), you can complete the visa application yourself; it takes about 2 hours to do. You do not need to pay anyone to do this on your behalf. There are groups that will help you if you are stuck, for free.
Having an idea about the documents required during the process will ensure you can prepare copies in advance and can complete the visa application smoothly.
On this page
- The basic visa application process
- Process differences based on Ukrainian identity document differences
- Benefits of using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app
- Filling in the online visa application form
- Applying as a family group
- Applying as an unaccompanied minor (child under 18)
- Ukrainian document translation services
- Getting help with the visa application
- Permission to Travel email letter
- On arrival in the UK
- How long do you have to travel to the UK?
- What to do if your visa application is taking a long time
- What happens if the sponsor changes their mind about hosting?
The basic visa application process
At a high level, the steps involved are:
- Starting your visa application online, which could include submitting biometric information at the same time through the ”UK Immigration: ID Check’ app
- Uploading any documentary evidence asked for with the application
- Receiving a visa or Permission to Travel letter, which allows you to enter the UK
- Potentially providing biometric information separately, at a physical location either inside or outside the UK
An initial visa issued without biometric information submitted at the same time allows you to enter and stay in the UK for up to 6 months only. Biometric information submission allows a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) to be created, which allows you to stay in the UK for up to 3 years. This can be done after you arrive in the UK, if you did not do it at the time of the visa application.
The exact process you can follow depends on:
- Whether you are in the UK already (and therefore applying for an Extension visa)
- What type of identity document you have and whether it contains biometric data (it will have this symbol if so)
- Whether you have been able to use the ‘UK Immigration: ID check’ app in your application
- Whether you are a non-Ukrainian national applying to come with Ukrainian family members
Always read carefully any instructions and communciations you receive, to see what to do next for your particular circumstance.
Process differences based on Ukrainian identity document differences
The process to apply differs according to the type of Ukrainian identity document you have.
- If you have a valid and unextended Ukrainian international biometric passport, then you can complete the visa application process online. You should try to use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app when completing your application, as this has many advantages. When your visa application is decided, you will then receive a ‘Permission to Travel’ letter by email, which will allow you to travel to the UK. Upon arrival, your passport will be stamped with a visa entry stamp (this step may be omitted if you have used the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app).
- If you have an expired Ukrainian international passport, with a formal extension stamp issued by the Ukrainian Government, you can complete the visa application process online, but you can’t use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app. You will need to give your biometric data after arriving in the UK. When your visa application is decided, you will then receive a ‘Permission to Travel’ letter, which will allow you to travel to the UK. Upon arrival, your passport will be stamped with a visa entry stamp.
- If you don’t have an international passport, you can start the visa application online, but you will need to make an appointment to attend a Visa Application Centre or VAC to give your biometric data. A list of VACs is given here: https://www.gov.uk/find-a-visa-application-centre. You may now be asked to apply for an international passport first, which will include biometric data capture, or you may be issued with a visa in the form of a ‘vignette’, which you can use to travel to the UK.
Note that if you do not have a biometric international passport, you will need to get a Schengen zone visa to travel through countries such as Poland in order to get to the UK.
Update 31/01/23: The Ukraine VAC in Kyiv is now OPEN for visa applications and biometric capture; however, you will still need to pick up your visa from the VAC in Warsaw using a valid international passport. See https://www.gov.uk/guidance/support-for-family-members-of-british-nationals-in-ukraine-and-ukrainian-nationals-in-ukraine-and-the-uk.
Benefits of using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app
As of 11th May 2022, a new identity app called ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ was introduced to the visa application process, which allows identity data from a valid Ukrainian international passport to be automatically scanned, uploaded and verified. Using this app is beneficial for many reasons:
- You don’t need to manually enter details of the Ukrainian international passport, this reduces risk of errors
- You don’t need to upload pictures of the Ukrainian international passport at the end of the process
- The application approval process itself might be quicker, it took us 1 week for a mother and child using this
- You don’t need to separately apply for a biometric residence permit, as this is also your application for a BRP
- You create a ‘UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) Account’ which can be used to share details online about your immigration status with employers, landlords etc in the future via ‘share codes’ (see Immigration Account). You get more ‘share codes’ doing this than you get by applying for the BRP separately after arriving in the UK (for example, you can get share codes to prove your identity to services like the UK driver licensing agency, DVLA).
You will need a reasonably up to date mobile phone for the app to work e.g. iPhone 7 or later. See https://www.gov.uk/guidance/using-the-uk-immigration-id-check-app-for-ukraine-nationals to check if your phone meets the requirements. You will be told when to download the app as part of your application process, and given instructions to follow.
Filling in the online visa application form
Carefully read through all the information on the relevant Government visa application page before starting.
- For the Family visa scheme, the link to start the application (if you are outside the UK) is via the first ‘Start Now’ button on this page: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-ukraine-family-scheme-visa. Further down on the page, you can find a link to apply if you are already inside the UK.
- For the Extension visa scheme, the link to start the application is via the first ‘Start Now’ button on this page: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-to-stay-in-the-uk-under-the-ukraine-extension-scheme.
- For the Homes for Ukraine (Sponsorship) visa scheme, the link to start the application is via the first ‘Start Now’ button on this page: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-visa-under-the-ukraine-sponsorship-scheme. Either the sponsor or the guest can apply, or it can be done together.
There is a 3 minute video which explains the online visa application process: https://youtu.be/SNushkZoqTM. There are also translated versions of the application screens available in Ukrainian and Russian.
The form should be filled in from the perspective of the visa applicant themselves. We advise both parties being available to speak to each other during the process.
For the online visa application process, expect to have the following details to hand about the applicant: name, address, contact email or mobile number, date of birth, and passport number. You are also likely to need the following information about the applicant:
- Their profession
- Any previous names
- Any criminal convictions
- Any previous deportations or visa refusals
You should also prepare pictures or scans of documents that you may be asked to upload as evidence, such as:
- Applicant passport (if they are not able to use the ‘UK Immigration: ID check’ app)
- Proof of a Ukrainian address dated before 1 January 2022 for the applicant, such as a bank statement
- Birth certificate and father’s passport if applying for a child
- For a Homes for Ukraine application, host identity documents – such as passport, or driving licence if passport not available or expired. If the host is not British and has a UKVI Immigration Account, they can use this to prove their identity, or they can use their BRP. We recommend the host not passing their passport details to the applicant if they are not sure about who they are.
- For a Family visa application, documents that prove your relationship to your family member. You can get these translated for free if necessary. You don’t need them to be translated by a lawyer, and it’s possible you don’t need to translate them at all.
- For an Extension visa application, documents that prove your existing or previous permission to enter the UK – such as a BRP, visa, vignette, or other Home Office document.
Postcodes for Ukraine can be found here: Postal codes of Ukraine (postaldb.net)
Accessing the online application / creating a UKVI account
For the visa application, either the sponsor / family member in the UK or the visa applicant can do the application. If the visa applicant doesn’t have good English, it’s probably easier if the person in the UK does the application on behalf of the visa applicant. Remember that the application data provided must be from the visa applicant’s perspective.
If you are able to use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app, select the ‘Continue’ button here; otherwise click the ‘I cannot use the app’ link.
If you selected ‘Continue’, you will need to create a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) account for the visa applicant, linked to their passport number and their contact details. It’s important to set up the account with their details, as they will use their UKVI account when they are in the UK to prove their immigration status to employers, landlords and so on. Provide the applicant’s email address and a contact mobile number, to which 6 digit security codes will be sent as part of the application process, for verification purposes.
Note that security codes don’t seem to work when sent to Ukrainian mobile numbers. Do not panic; in this case, select that ‘you didn’t receive the code’ and you will be able to continue.
If the person filling out the application form is not the applicant, they can select that they are creating the account on behalf of someone else, and they can add their own email and contact number as well to set themselves up as a ‘helper’ who also has access to the UKVI account. (Access can be removed by the applicant at a later date). This is useful as later on in the process, the helper’s contact details can also be used to receive security codes in order to access the account and the visa application. Even if you answer that you are creating the account for yourself, you will also have the option to add a helper later.
If you can’t use the app, then you will not create a UKVI account. Instead, you will set up an email and password which can be used to access the application later (the application link will be emailed to you). The email can be either the applicant’s or the person filling out the application form on their behalf.
Using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app
See https://www.gov.uk/guidance/using-the-uk-immigration-id-check-app-for-ukraine-nationals for instructions on how to use the app.
You will be prompted to download the app from the app store at the appropriate point in the visa application. Once you have downloaded the app, you can use the ‘Connection code’ (a 6 letter code) generated by the app, or the ‘QR code’ generated on the visa application page, to connect the identity app with the UKVI account that you have created and are doing the visa application through.
You will then confirm your identity on the app doing two things:
- Scanning the biometric chip on the passport or taking a picture of the passport photo page
- Taking a selfie as instructed
Having received confirmation that you have successfully completed the identity step, you will then either ‘disconnect’ (if the visa application is being done on a different device) or ‘continue’ (if the visa application is being done on the same device) in order to continue the visa application. You may need to sign in again and select the contact email or phone number that you want to receive the sign in security code.
Answering questions and uploading evidence
Continue the rest of the application.
If you are not using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app, be careful to put in the information from the passport exactly as it is defined on the passport itself, for example the ‘Place of Issue’ or ‘Issuing Authority’ might be a code on the passport rather than an actual place.
Important: Answer all questions truthfully, even if for example, you have had previous visa issues. It doesn’t mean you will be refused this time (we had a successful visa application for someone who overstayed a previous visa), but being found not telling the truth is much worse.
When submitting the application, in the Declaration section, you can declare that you are submitting the application on behalf of the applicant and indicate in the ‘Other’ section that you are the sponsor.
Keep the application submission reference number that you receive somewhere safe.
In order to upload supporting documents, the ‘Evidence’ section is completed after the application itself is submitted. You will need clear pictures of any identity documents required to be uploaded at the end of the application process. You may also need to provide a proof of address in Ukraine. Even if you have no documents to upload, press the ‘Confirm and Upload’ button.
If you are a Ukraine visa holder applying to be a sponsor yourself, note that you should be able to prove your identity digitally if you used the ‘UK Immigration: ID check’ app when you applied for your own visa and have an immigration account. (It will not work if you have a BRP that you applied for only after arrival in the UK; in this case, you should be able to upload a picture of your BRP instead.)
Where to collect your BRP
If you used the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app in your application, you will be asked to select a UK Post Office to have your BRP sent to. Details of how to collect the BRP will be given in your Permission to Travel letter.
Look for a Post Office conveniently located to you (near where you will be staying in the UK) which offers ‘BRP Card Collection Service’ under ‘Home Office Services’ on this link: https://www.postoffice.co.uk/branch-finder.
If you did not use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app, and did not submit biometric data when applying, you will need to separately apply for a BRP within 6 months of arrival, preferably as a priority task. Details of how to do this will be given in your Permision to Travel letter, or see Biometric Residence Permit.
Applying as a group
If you are part of a family group applying to live with the same sponsor, then each person must apply separately for their visa.
You will be asked if anyone else is applying at the same time, and to supply their passport number. By supplying everyone’s passport numbers, we assume the different applications can be linked by the Home Office.
For a child application, even if the father is not applying at the same time, later in the application you will be asked to provide details of the father’s passport (assuming the mother is accompanying the child). You will also be asked to upload a copy of the child’s birth certificate.
Applying as an unaccompanied minor (child under 18)
If the visa application is on behalf of a child that will be travelling to live with a sponsor without their parent or legal guardian, then the process is different, as more checks will need to be done.
Guidance for this situation is given here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/homes-for-ukraine-guidance-for-parents-or-legal-guardians-children-and-minors-applying-without-parents (if you are the parent or legal guardian) and here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/homes-for-ukraine-guidance-for-sponsors-children-and-minors-applying-without-parents-or-legal-guardians (if you are the sponsor).
The steps involved are given here: https://apply-to-offer-homes-for-ukraine.service.gov.uk/sponsor-a-child. You will need to have completed the steps resulting in a ‘child sponsorship approval number’ before you can apply for the visa (using the ‘Start Now’ button on https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-visa-under-the-ukraine-sponsorship-scheme).
Ukrainian document translation services
If it is necessary to translate any documents such as birth, marriage, divorce or death certificates, you can find FREE model document templates here: https://charitytranslators.org/LinksforUkraine#ModelDocs. You do not need to get documents translated by a lawyer.
Getting help with the visa application
The UK Home Office has provided some helplines:
- If you need any assistance, please call the free helpline: +44 808 164 8810 (0808 164 8810 if you’re in the UK). This is open Monday to Friday 9 am to 5.30 pm.
- If you cannot contact UK 0808 numbers, please use +44 (0)175 390 7510.
The Government has also provided translated versions of the visa application screens. See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ukraine-family-scheme-and-ukraine-sponsorship-scheme-application-screens
If you are not confident enough to fill in the visa application form by yourself, you can try these resources for help:
- You can contact volunteers on the following email for help with your visa application: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- www.uspuk.org: They can also help with filling out the visa application form. Email email@example.com.
- You can email a representative of the charity Settled for help with the visa application: firstname.lastname@example.org
Permission to Travel Letter / Email
Based on our experience, you will not get any status updates about your application. A common question is how long does it take for the visa to be granted. The answer is: it varies. Some applications took one week to process (single female applicants seem to be quickest); some took eight weeks (if minors travelling without parents are involved). Once your application has been approved, you will receive a ‘Permission to Travel’ letter from the UK Home Office by email. This means you can book travel to the UK. It will allow you to receive a valid entry stamp in your passport. Do not travel before receiving this letter / email.
This letter is very important. It can be used as proof of your immigration status when you are in the UK, for other things, such as your right to work and to receive benefits. Do not delete the email.
Note that a genuine email will come from an email address containing the GOV.UK domain name. Any other email saying your visa application is successful is a sure sign that you have been unfortunately scammed. See Ukraine Visa Scams for more information.
On arrival in the UK
For Ukrainians arriving at an entry port in the UK, there should be a Ukraine Welcome point somewhere in the building, if you need assistance.
You are entitled to free travel within the first 48 hours of your arrival in the UK, for a single end to end journey to enable you to get to your initial destination (such as your sponsor’s or relative’s address) within the UK. You only need to show your Ukrainian passport and your boarding pass or ticket showing arrival into the country within the last 48 hours.
Once you have reached your destination and settled in, we suggest you start by referring to the priority tasks to do on arrival here: Priority Tasks On Arrival. You can also look at the Government Welcome Guides and other resources, which can be found here: Useful Resources.
How long do you have to travel to the UK?
[This question was confirmed with the UK Visa and Immigration Ukraine Helpline on 09/12/22.]
You don’t have a time limit to travel to the UK if you applied for a visa and received a Permission to Travel Letter. (Obviously, try to come within the year!). One thing to be aware of though, is that if you used the ‘UK Immigration: ID check’ app, and your BRP is waiting for you at a Post Office in the UK, it will only be held for 60 days before being sent back to the Home Office, but you can still travel. You will be advised on the steps to retrieve your BRP on arrival, if this is the case.
However, if you received a visa by visiting a Visa Application Centre abroad, then you have 90 days to travel to the UK.
What to do if your visa application is taking a long time
[This question was confirmed with the UK Visa and Immigration Ukraine Helpline on 09/12/22.]
Although the call agents cannot give you a status update on your visa, if its been more than 8 weeks since you applied, and your visa has not been approved yet, you can call them on the helpline numbers: +44 808 164 8810 (0808 164 8810 if you’re in the UK) and ask for them to escalate the issue. (If there are severe mitigating circumstances, then you can also call them earlier than 8 weeks and ask for an escalation.)
They do NOT advise submitting a new application as you will be at the back of the queue again.
Here are a couple of groups that can contact the Home Office on your behalf if your visa application seems to be taking a long time:
Some hosts report that asking their Member of Parliament for help in chasing the visa application seemed to result in a decision.
If you applied for a Homes for Ukraine visa, it is possible to check with the local council whether or not they have received confirmation of your visa application. See Useful Contacts for details of how to find the local council of your sponsor; we have given some emails there.
What happens if the sponsor changes their mind about hosting?
[The information below was confirmed with the Immigration Helpline on 21/02/22. We advise you to ring the helpline on 0808 164 8810 and to contact your local council to double check any information relating to your particular circumstances.]
During the visa application process, i.e. once the application has been submitted but before the visa has been granted, it is possible for the sponsor to decide they no longer want to host you and to inform the authorities. In this case, it appears that the process will be stopped and no visa will be granted / no Permission to Travel letter sent. You will have to find a new sponsor and start again.
Once your visa is granted and you have received your Permission to Travel letter, your host can decide that they no longer want to host you. This does not mean they personally have actually cancelled your visa or your Permission to Travel letter, but you no longer have a sponsor and somewhere to stay on arrival.
If they decide this before you have travelled to the UK, you are in a difficult position. You should contact the local council in this case to discuss the situation. See Useful Contacts for details of how to find your local council, by entering the postcode of your sponsor. You could travel anyway to the UK; Border Force may intercept you and liaise with the council so that they can help you (you would be classed as ‘homeless’). However, you may want to try and find a new sponsor yourself before you travel. In this case, we were told that you do not need to reapply for a visa; you can let the council know of the new host, and use your existing visa to travel. If you do apply for a new visa, the old one should just expire from the system.
Once you are in the UK and have already been staying with your sponsor, note that they do not have the ability to cancel your visa (if for example, they decide to stop hosting you, or you decide to move out of their accommodation, or you go back to Ukraine for a visit). Your visa entitles you to be in the UK. If they however decide to end the hosting arrangement before the minimum 6 months period has elapsed, contact your local council to see whether they can help you find a new host.
Refer to the official Government guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/when-a-sponsor-withdraws-from-the-scheme-homes-for-ukraine. Also refer to Housing Issues And Homelessness.