The Ukraine Family Scheme visa was announced by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and the Home Office on 4 March 2022. It is a new scheme to help Ukrainian nationals with UK-based family members meet their relatives in the United Kingdom or extend their stay in the country. 

Naturally, the origin of this visa is the armed conflict in Ukraine due to the invasion of Russia and its ally Belarus. The Ukraine Family Scheme visa is part of a wider plan to provide aid to Ukrainian nationals in the middle of the conflict. 

To make it easier for people to apply for it, the United Kingdom has opened new additional Visa Application Centers in Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Poland, etc.

Those who are granted this visa will be able to enter, reside, work, study, and access public funds in the United Kingdom. 

Who are eligible for the Ukraine Family Scheme?

Ukraine Family Scheme eligibility criteria have been specified on the UK Government’s official website. There, it’s pointed out that the Ukraine Family Scheme is aimed at Ukrainian nationals or immediate family members of Ukrainian nationals who have been living in Ukraine prior to 1 January 2022 and now want to join their family members in the United Kingdom.

Their family members can be British nationals or nationals of other countries who are settled in the United Kingdom with indefinite leave to remain, settled status (at least 5 years of continuous residence in the UK), or permanent residence status. 

They can also be:

  • Nationals of other EU countries, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein with a pre-settled status, provided that they started living in the United Kingdom prior to 1 January 2021. 
  • People with refugee status or receiving humanitarian protection in the United Kingdom.

UK-based family members can be immediate family members, extended family members, or immediate family members of an extended family member. 

Immediate family members are spouses or civil partners, fiancé or proposed civil partners, unmarried partners who have been living together for at least 2 years, children under 18 years old, or parents (if the applicant is under 18 years old).

Extended family members are parents (when the applicant is above 18 years old), children over 18 years old, grandparents, grandchildren, a partner’s grandchildren, brothers, and sisters.

Immediate family members of an extended family member are the spouse, civil partner, proposed civil partner (fiancé), and children under 18 years old of an extended family member. The parents of a child under 18 years old who is an extended family member also count. 

Applicants for the Ukraine Family Scheme should have a copy of an official document that serves as proof of relationship with a UK-based family member, such as a marriage certificate or a birth certificate. If they can’t provide these documents, they must explain why, but their applications will not be automatically denied to them because of this. 

Ukraine Family Scheme visa duration and validity

Once granted, the Ukraine Family Scheme visa will be valid for 3 years. This means that successful applicants will be able to stay in the UK for this time period. As mentioned above, they can work, study, and access the UK’s public funds (if applicable) during this period of time. 

Ukraine Family Scheme visa fees

The Ukraine Family Scheme is totally free to apply. 

Applicants will be exempt from the payment of the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), which is a requirement in other immigration applications. 

The Immigration Health Surcharge enables immigrants to use the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), but applicants for the Ukraine Family Scheme will be able to use the publicly funded healthcare system of the United Kingdom without paying the Immigration Health Surcharge. 

Ukraine Family Scheme visa processing time

Given the urgent necessity of many Ukrainian nationals to leave their home country for safety reasons, the British authorities have stated that Ukraine Family Scheme applications will be prioritized and reviewed as soon as possible. 

How to apply for a Ukraine Family Scheme visa

Applying for a Ukraine Family Scheme visa from outside the UK is easy. Applicants must submit an online application and then book and attend an appointment at a Visa Application Center (VAC). 

All VACs are currently not operational in Ukraine; the VAC in Kyiv is closed, and the temporary VAC in the Lemberg Business Center in Lviv is suspended. There are additional VACs in Moldova, Romania, Hungary, and Poland, including one in Rzeszow, Poland, near Ukraine’s border; and one in Paris, France.

The Ukraine family scheme application involves taking the applicant’s photograph and fingerprints at the nearest VAC. Only children under the age of 5 will not have their fingerprints taken; however, they will still need to go to the VAC, where the staff will take them a digital photograph.

Note: Starting from 15 March 2022, applicants from outside the UK who have a valid Ukrainian international passport will no longer need to submit their biometrics (taking photograph and fingerprints) to apply for the Ukrainian Family Scheme Visa. They need to fill out the application form online, but they do not need to book and attend an appointment at the Visa Application Center.

The staff at the VACs can also ask applicants for their passports in order to scan them. If an applicant does not have a passport, he or she must explain why. The UK government has clarified that people without a passport will still be able to apply for the Ukraine Family Scheme as long as they have a reason for not being able to provide it. 

To apply for the Ukraine Family Scheme from inside the UK, applicants must submit an online application and then book and attend an appointment at a service point of UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCS) where their biometric information will be taken, with no fees required for any paid services provided by the UKVCS service point.

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