UK visa Schemes for Ukrainian Refugees

Nothing in this page should be taken as immigration advice, we are merely summarising and signposting links to official documentation. You must seek your own guidance from professional advisors where necessary.

As a Ukrainian fleeing the war in Ukraine, you need a visa to come to the UK. There are basically 3 Ukraine specific visa schemes that were created at the start of the war:

  • Homes for Ukraine Visa scheme which allows individuals in the UK (known as ‘sponsors’ or ‘hosts’) to provide a home to Ukrainians (as of 19th February 2024, this scheme is for 18 months only)
  • Ukraine Family Visa scheme for Ukrainians whose relatives already have the right to remain in the UK on a permanent basis (as of 19th February 2024, this scheme is now CLOSED)
  • Ukraine Extension Visa scheme, whereby Ukrainians who already had valid visas on certain dates, or were already in the UK, could apply to have their visas effectively extended (this scheme will be effectively closing on 16th May 2024)

On this page, we provide an overview of the schemes, as well as other visa options. There is more detailed information on each scheme on the Government website pages, which we advise you to read carefully.

When you are ready to apply for the visa, have a look at Applying For A Visa for a description of the process and what documents to have ready before you start.

Ukraine immigration rule changes announced on 19th February 2024

Some significant changes were announced on this date:

  • From late 2024 / early 2025, those who had arrived in the UK under Homes for Ukraine, Ukraine Family or Ukraine Extension schemes and had 3 years leave to remain in the UK can start to apply to extend this by another 18 months under the new Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme. This scheme will be open for you to apply to 3 months before your original visa end date.
  • The Ukraine Family visa scheme was CLOSED to new applications
  • The Ukraine Extension scheme is confirmed as closing on 16th May 2024 (except for children born in the UK to Ukraine visa holders)
  • The criteria to be a sponsor under Homes for Ukraine were tightened
  • The length of time granted to remain in the UK under Homes for Ukraine for new applicants will be reduced from 3 years to 18 months. However, this can be extended by another18 months as well by applying to the new Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme
  • Prior visa refusals and criminal convictions will likely now result in visa application rejections

These rules came into effect immediately at 3 pm on 19th February, 2024 for new applications.

A common question is what happens if you applied before these changes came into effect – will your application be assessed against the old or new rules? In this published Government document, it would be the old rules as in effect on 18th February 2024.

Common aspects of the Ukraine Family, Extension and Homes for Ukraine schemes

There are some common aspects to the schemes:

  • Visa applicants under all 3 schemes would have been subject to background security checks during the application process.
  • You did not have to be in Ukraine at the time of application; you could apply from a country of safety that you have reached. You needed to be in the UK already to apply for the Extension scheme.
  • All 3 schemes allow the possibility to stay in the UK for a fixed time period. Having a Biometric Residence Permit (or BRP) gives you permission to stay for the full time period.
  • All 3 schemes were completely FREE to apply for at all stages, including applying for the BRP
  • All 3 schemes allow you to live, work, rent and study from day 1 in the UK; you also have ‘recourse to public funds’ such as the UK Benefits System from day 1.
  • Once you have been issued a visa, it’s not possible to switch from Family / Extension scheme to Homes for Ukraine scheme, and vice versa.
  • You can apply for an 18 month extension to your existing 3 year leave to remain from late 2024 / early 2025 under the new Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme (not open yet)
  • None of the schemes are currently routes to settlement in the UK

Your official immigration status under the schemes

It’s really important to note that if you arrive under these schemes, you are NOT officially:

  • A refugee
  • An asylum seeker
  • Under humanitarian protection

Although we (sorry to say) refer to ‘refugees’ throughout this website to describe the fact that you are fleeing a war and seeking refuge, and you’ll be referred to like this almost everywhere, you are here under some kind of temporary protection only. Bear this in mind when trying to fill in forms that were designed for other kinds of refugees, and haven’t been properly updated for the Ukrainian situation.

UK Visas and Immigration Ukraine Helpline

To speak to someone about the different schemes, you can call the following number: +44 808 164 8810, Monday to Friday 9 am to 4.45 pm. Calls are free to this number.

Note that they cannot tell you about the status of an individual visa application and how long it will take.

Ukraine Family Visa Scheme – CLOSED 19th February 2024

The Ukraine Family visa scheme is now CLOSED to new applications as of 19th February 2024. We will keep our description of the previous process for a little while, for your reference.

To have applied to the Ukraine Family Scheme before 19th February, 2024, you needed to have been:

  • applying to join or accompany your UK-based family member
  • Ukrainian, or the family member of a Ukrainian national who was applying to the scheme to join a UK-based immediate family member
  • living in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022 (even if you had since left Ukraine)

Your family member in the UK needed to have been:

  • a British national
  • someone settled in the UK – for example, they had indefinite leave to remain, settled status or proof of permanent residence
  • someone from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland who had pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme and started living in the UK before 1 January 2021
  • someone with refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK

Ukraine Extension Visa Scheme

The Ukraine Extension visa scheme is basically designed to allow people who were granted permission to be in the UK via other routes to switch to this visa scheme instead, if it is more beneficial for them.

You can apply for the Ukraine Extension Scheme if you’re Ukrainian or the close family member of a Ukrainian, and if one of the following is true:

  • You held permission to be in the UK on or between 18 March 2022 and 16 November 2023 – the permission does not need to cover the whole period
  • You previously held permission to be in the UK and that permission expired on or after 1 January 2022

We believe that therefore, it should be possible for Ukrainians who had obtained a Standard Visitor visa, for example, in order to visit the UK, to then apply for an Extension visa once they are in the UK. This was confirmed in a phone call to UK Visas and Immigration helpline on 13//02/23.

You must be in the UK to apply. Your permission to stay in the UK must have been valid on the 16th November 2023 in order to be eligible to apply and you currently have until 16th May 2024 to apply.

Note that because the Extension visa route does not currently lead to settlement, you should read the Government provided guidance carefully before deciding whether you want to keep and extend your current visa, or switch to the Extension visa. For example, if you are here under a Skilled Worker visa, you may wish to keep this visa instead, so that you can apply for indefinite leave to remain in the future. You may wish to speak to an immigration adviser to decide what to do.

Homes for Ukraine (Sponsorship) Visa Scheme

The Homes for Ukraine (or Ukraine Sponsorship) Visa scheme is described here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-visa-under-the-ukraine-sponsorship-scheme. It is basically designed to allow people to come to the UK and have the ‘safety net’ of a minimum of 6 months rent-free accommodation with a UK-based sponsor, so that they can establish themselves to get jobs and rent their own place.

Under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, you must be Ukrainian, or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national who has been granted permission under, or is applying to and qualifies for, the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme.

You must also:

  • have been residing in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022 (including those who have now left Ukraine)
  • be outside of the UK
  • have an eligible UK-based sponsor

The criteria to be eligible to be a sponsor are given here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/homes-for-ukraine-sponsor-guidance. The criteria to be a sponsor were tightened considerably on 19th February, 2024. Now, to be a sponsor, you must either:

  • be a British or Irish citizen, or
  • be ‘settled in the UK’ (which means having the right to live in the UK permanently)

In addition, you must:

  • be able to provide suitable accommodation for a minimum of 6 months
  • pass relevant security and background checks, which will include all adults in the households

This means that it is no longer possible to act as a sponsor yourself to bring over family members and relatives if you are here in the UK on one of the Ukraine visa schemes, as these only give you limited leave to remain in the UK.

Also note that from 19th February 2024, the maximum initial time you will receive to remain in the UK under this visa scheme will be 18 months. However, this can be extended by another 18 months eventually by applying for the Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme, giving you a total time of 3 years in the UK.

As a sponsor, you can request to receive a ‘thank you’ payment for hosting Ukrainians under this scheme.

  • The ‘thank you’ payment is £350 a month for the first 12 months of the guest’s time in the UK
  • It goes up to £500 a month for the next 2 years of the guest’s time in the UK (up to a total of 3 years).
  • However, for new applicants from 19th February 2024, the sponsor ‘thank you’ payments will last for 18 months in total, in line with the guest’s initial visa duration.
  • It is conditional on passing the council checks – DBS background check and suitable accommodation
  • It is optional – you have to tell your local council you want to receive the payments
  • It is per sponsor household, so it’s the same whether you host 1 or several guests
  • The ‘thank you’ payment follows the guest, so if they move to another sponsor in their second year, the new sponsor gets £500 a month ‘thank you’ payment, not £350. See Moving To Another Sponsor.

Note that in Wales, sponsors can receive £500 a month ‘thank you’ payment for the first 12 months as well, and that some local councils are themselves offering increased ‘thank you’ payments compared to the Government guidance as an incentive to sponsors.

As a guest, you will receive £200 from the local council on arrival, to help you with immediate purchases you need to make.

Hosts must not charge rent under this scheme, nor ask for work to be done in exchange for accommodation. Hosts may ask for a reasonable contribution to utility bills; this is entirely their decision, some hosts feel that their ‘thank you’ payment can cover any increased bills, and other hosts would prefer a separate contribution. Hosts are not required to pay for their guest’s food or other expenses, although some hosts choose to help out.

The accommodation requirements are the same as the law would require to avoid overcrowding. Individuals who didn’t previously know each other should not be given the same room. Rooms should be heated, safe, and private. There should be access to a kitchen and bathroom, and the accommodation needs to have a working fire alarm, safe gas supply, carbon monoxide detectors if applicable etc.

Guests should also note that the £350 ‘thank you’ payment is typically much lower than the true rental cost a sponsor could charge if they wanted to rent out their spare accommodation instead. Also, whether or not the sponsor hosts 1 refugee, or 5, they still get £350 in total; it’s not per refugee.

Further guidance and FAQs can be found here (as well as throughout this website!):

Council checks on sponsors

Whilst the Home Office is responsible for carrying out security checks on the guest, before making a decision about their visa, the local council where the sponsor lives is responsible for carrying out the following checks:

  • Making sure the accommodation is suitable and safe for guests (this will be done by a physical visit)
  • Performing background checks on all adults in the sponsor’s household (this will include extra checks known as Enhanced DBS checks if children are being hosted)

These checks are not synchronised with the visa application, so it is possible that the visa is granted to the guest, but the sponsor checks have not been completed. As a guest, from a practical perspective, it would be better to get out of a danger zone as soon as you can. If you personally know the sponsor and their accommodation, or have some mutual contacts, the risk of them failing any assessment should be very low. We know many people who started living with their hosts before the council had managed to carry out their checks, and the data indicates that the overall sponsor failure is low in comparison.

The ‘thank you’ payments are only authorised to be paid to a sponsor once the local council have conducted their checks.

If you applied under the Scottish ‘Super Sponsor’ scheme, then your host will be checked before you are matched to them.

See Housing Issues And Homelessness for what to do in case of issues.

How to find a host or sponsor, or a refugee to sponsor

We have given some options on how to find a host or sponsor, on this page: Finding a UK Sponsor. Equally, if you would like to find a Ukrainian refugee to sponsor, that page will help you understand where you can register or advertise to be found. We also include some thoughts on checking whether you are a good match for each other.

Stay away from scams where you are charged money to get a fake visa with fake ‘sponsors’. See ‘Visa Scams’.

Unaccompanied Ukrainian children

For Ukrainians who would like to get their children to safety but who cannot leave Ukraine themselves, they have the option to ask someone they know who is based in the UK to be a sponsor.

There are more extensive checks and paperwork required to minimise the risk of trafficking, for example:

  • The parent or legal guardian has to provide two different proofs of consent to the sponsorship arrangement
  • The proposed sponsor must have known the parent or legal guardian before the conflict started on 24 February 2022
  • The proposed sponsor must be able to live in the UK and sponsor for 3 years, or until the child turns 18 (but for a minimum of 6 months regardless)
  • The local council must agree to the arrangement
  • Enhanced DBS checks will be carried out on the adults in the sponsor household, before the visa is approved and the child can arrive in the UK

See https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-visa-under-the-ukraine-sponsorship-scheme under the section called ‘Children who are not applying to travel with or join their parent or legal guardian’.

See also https://www.gov.uk/guidance/homes-for-ukraine-guidance-for-parents-or-legal-guardians-children-and-minors-applying-without-parents and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/homes-for-ukraine-guidance-for-sponsors-children-and-minors-applying-without-parents-or-legal-guardians for more information on what’s involved in this type of sponsorship.

Differences between Family / Extension and Homes for Ukraine (Sponsorship) visas

Compared to the Homes for Ukraine scheme, the Family visa and Extension schemes had the following disadvantages:

  • The Government does not give the local council any funding for a Family visa or Extension visa member, whereas for a Homes for Ukraine guest, councils receive several thousand pounds funding per individual
  • The guest does not get a minimum of 6 months’ rent-free living with a host
  • The guest does not get a £200 welcome payment on arrival
  • The host does not get £350 a month ‘thank you’ payment to help with costs
  • If the host are on benefits or receive concessions, these may be negatively impacted. For example, if you are a single occupant in your house, and are eligible for the single occupancy council tax 25% discount, you will lose this advantage should Family visa or Extension visa members move in with you, whereas it is not affected by Homes for Ukraine visa holders moving in.

Generally, there is better support in the system for Homes for Ukraine visa holders and their hosts. We have seen for example, cases where relatives who received Family visas did not feel able to use them to come to the UK because there was nowhere for them to actually stay on arrival.

Visa scams

We are aware that people may be advertising that, for a significant sum of money, they can get you a Homes for Ukraine visa. In fact, scammers and fraudsters are coming up with new ways to convince you to give them money for ‘sponsors’.

See Ukraine Visa Scams for more information, and stay safe; don’t be a victim.

What if you don’t need a sponsor for accommodation, only a visa?

This is becoming a common question, as there is a lack of genuine new sponsors. We would ask you to consider the following:

  • Are you really sure you don’t need accommodation on arrival and can rent straight away? See Renting Privately.
  • Is there another visa type that could be more appropriate?

Applying for an 18 month extension under Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme

For those Ukraine visa holders already in the UK under Homes for Ukraine, Ukraine Family or Ukraine Extension visa schemes, the Government announced in February 2024 that they would be eligible to apply for a further 18 month extension under the new Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme.

This scheme is not yet open. The application process is expected to be available in late 2024 / early 2025, around 3 months before the first issued visas are due to expire. More details will be available nearer the time. You will be able to apply to this scheme 3 months before your original visa expires. Note that you need to explicitly apply for this additional time; your visa will not be automatically extended beyond the initial visa duration.

Such an extension would enable university students for example, to complete a university course started some months after they first arrived.

Do not confuse this with the Ukraine Extension visa scheme, which is closing on 16th May 2024.

Other available visa options

For a full list of visa options available to Ukrainians, please see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/support-for-family-members-of-british-nationals-in-ukraine-and-ukrainian-nationals-in-ukraine-and-the-uk.

We assume that other visa options that existed before the invasion such as work, study and seasonal worker visas, continue to operate and can be applied for. You can check your eligiblity for these here: https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa.

Note that if you apply under a student visa, you will be charged overseas student fees and not be eligible for a student loan (see Education), so this is more difficult from a financial perspective.

If you are already in the UK as a Ukrainian national, refer to this page for your options; you may be able to extend your existing visa in some cases, or switch it: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ukrainian-nationals-in-the-uk-visa-support.

Where to get help with visa and immigration questions