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 new types of visa that can be granted:
- Ukraine Family Visa scheme for Ukrainians whose relatives already have the right to remain in the UK on a permanent basis.
- Ukraine Extension Visa scheme, whereby Ukrainians who already had valid visas on certain dates, or were already in the UK, can apply to have their visas effectively extended.
- Homes for Ukraine Visa scheme which allows individuals in the UK (known as ‘sponsors’ or ‘hosts’) to provide a home to Ukrainians.
These 3 schemes have been in place since the beginning of the invasion. No new visa types have been created, although in one or two places, the rules were modified.
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.
On this page
- Common aspects of the Ukraine Family, Extension and Homes for Ukraine schemes
- Your official immigration status under the schemes
- UK Visas and Immigration Ukraine Helpline
- Ukraine Family Visa scheme
- Ukraine Extension Visa scheme
- Homes for Ukraine (Sponsorship) Visa scheme
- Council checks on sponsors
- How to find a host or sponsor, or a refugee to sponsor
- Unaccompanied Ukrainian children
- Differences between Family / Extension and Homes for Ukraine (Sponsorship) visas
- Visa scams
- What if you don’t need a sponsor for accommodation, only a visa?
- Other available visa options
- Where to get help with visa and immigration questions
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 will be subject to background security checks during the application process.
- You do not have to be in Ukraine at the time of application; you can apply from a country of safety that you have reached. You need to be in the UK already to apply for the Extension scheme.
- All 3 schemes allow the possibility to stay in the UK for up to 3 years. You will eventually have a Biometric Residence Permit (or BRP) which will give you this permission.
- All 3 schemes are completely FREE to apply for at all stages, including applying for the BRP, and there are translated guides and Facebook groups to help you with the applications (see Applying For A Visa), so do not pay money to any intermediaries to do things like find you ‘sponsors’, as you are being asked to do something fraudulent which you will have to keep secret and which will cause you difficulties later on.
- 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.
- None of the schemes are currently routes to settlement in the UK; it is unclear what happens at the end of the 3 years, but it will depend on the situation in Ukraine as well.
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 5.30 pm. Calls are free to this number.
- Option 1 to ask for information about the Family or Extension visa schemes
- Option 2 to ask for information about the Homes for Ukraine scheme (as a guest)
- Option 3 to ask for information about the Homes for Ukraine scheme (as a host)
Note that they cannot tell you about the status of an individual visa application and how long it will take.
Ukraine Family Visa Scheme
The Ukraine Family visa scheme is described here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-ukraine-family-scheme-visa.
To apply to the Ukraine Family Scheme you must:
- be applying to join or accompany your UK-based family member
- be Ukrainian, or the family member of a Ukrainian national who is applying to the scheme to join a UK-based immediate family member
- have been living in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022 (even if you have now left Ukraine)
You can apply if you’ve already arrived in the UK and meet the requirements above. Your family member in the UK must be:
- a British national
- someone settled in the UK – for example, they have indefinite leave to remain, settled status or proof of permanent residence
- someone from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland who has 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
IMPORTANT: Ukraine scheme visa holders (holders of Family, Homes for Ukraine or Extension visas) are NOT officially refugees or under humanitarian protection, so are NOT eligible to bring family members over under this scheme. Use the Homes for Ukraine scheme instead.
These rules have been in place since the beginning. There is no deadline to apply for this visa type.
The Government website page also gives a list of who is considered an ‘immediate’ family member, and who is considered an ‘extended’ family member.
Note that if you cannot accommodate your family members, you should try to find a sponsor for them under the Homes for Ukraine scheme instead, so that they have somewhere to stay on arrival. This is perfectly acceptable.
Ukraine Extension Visa Scheme
The Ukraine Extension visa scheme is described here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-to-stay-in-the-uk-under-the-ukraine-extension-scheme. It is basically designed to allow people who were granted permission to be in the UK via other routes, but who maybe don’t have family members or sponsors here (so can’t apply for Family or Homes for Ukraine visas), 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 can obtain 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. The Standard Visitor visa costs £100 for 6 months.
You must be in the UK to apply and you currently have until 16 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. Basically, a sponsor must:
- be aged 18 or over
- have at least 6 months permission to be in the UK (from the date of the visa application).
- have a valid identity document such as a UK Passport, driving licence or BRP
- be able to provide suitable accommodation for a period of at least 6 months in the UK
- pass relevant security and background checks, which will include all adults in the households
This visa scheme has been in place from the beginning of the war, and there is no deadline to apply.
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 (a total of 3 years)
- 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.
Also note that once a guest is in possession of a BRP, and has secured accommodation of their own, which they are able to use to host someone else for 6 months, they would meet the criteria to become a sponsor themselves under Homes for Ukraine for other Ukrainians, including their own family members, and would be eligible to receive the £350 ‘thank you’ payment also. See Bringing Relatives to the UK.
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.
Note that as a Ukraine scheme visa holder, you can become a sponsor yourself once you are in the UK, have a BRP and a room for your guest (who can be a family member) to stay.
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 have 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 seems to be 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.
We have created a Government petition (see Campaigns) to address the inequality between the Family visa and Homes for Ukraine visa schemes, which UK residents can sign.
Even if you are eligible to come in with a Family visa, because you have Ukrainian family settled in the UK, please consider coming in under the Homes for Ukraine scheme instead and asking your family member to help you with finding a suitable sponsor, especially if they will struggle to house you and support you in their own home. This is perfectly acceptable.
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. There is a lack of genuine new sponsors, and if you would like to join family members who arrived before you as refugees in the UK, they can’t bring you over under the Family visa scheme because they haven’t got long enough permission to stay in the UK according to the criteria for this scheme.
We don’t yet have a suitable answer for this, but 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.
- If you have relatives in the UK who already came over to the UK under one of the Ukraine visa schemes, are they able to rent somewhere suitable and be a sponsor for you under Homes for Ukraine (which only requires them to have 6 months permission to stay in the UK)? See Bringing Relatives To The UK.
- Could you make use of the Ukraine Extension scheme? With this scheme, you don’t need a sponsor or a family member to apply for a visa on your behalf.
- Is there another visa type that could be more appropriate?
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.