Visa routes for Ukrainian nationals - what UK employers need to know

We explore the new visa arrangements open to Ukrainian nationals and what practical considerations may arise out of these for employers

07 April 2022

The ongoing situation in Ukraine has led the government to introduce various temporary immigration routes to enable Ukrainian refugees to come to the UK. Below we take a look at the new routes available and consider the practical implications for employers.

Option 1 - Ukraine Family Scheme visa

From 4 March 2022, the Ukraine Family Scheme has provided a route which allows Ukrainian nationals (and their immediate families) to come to the UK if they have family living in the UK who are British nationals, UK settled persons or certain other residents in the UK. The applicant must be in one of the following relationships with the UK resident: (i) immediate family member; (ii) extended family member (which includes grandparents, cousins, nieces and nephews, a child who is over 18); or (iii) immediate family of an extended family member.

To be eligible for the scheme, applicants must:

  • be applying to join or accompany their UK-based family member; and
  • be Ukrainian or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national who is applying to the scheme. An immediate family member for these purposes is a spouse or civil partner, an unmarried partner where the couple have been living together in a relationship for at least 2 years, a child who is under 18, a parent if the applicant is under 18 and a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner; and
  • have been residing in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022 (including those who have now left Ukraine).

To find out more information about the Ukraine Family Scheme, please see the government guidance here.

Option 2 - Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine)

On 14 March 2022, the Homes for Ukraine scheme was announced, with Phase 1 coming into effect from 18 March 2022. This scheme allows Ukrainian nationals and their immediate family members to come to the UK if they have a named sponsor under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. An immediate family member for these purposes is the same as under the Ukraine Family Scheme visa.

To be eligible for the scheme, applicants must:

  • have been residing in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022 (including those who have now left Ukraine); and
  • currently be outside the UK; and
  • have a UK-based sponsor who is eligible for the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

It is not necessary for Ukrainian nationals or their family members to have any family or pre-existing links in the UK for them to be eligible to apply for sponsorship under the scheme.

The scheme enables sponsors to volunteer accommodation for Ukrainian nationals. A “thank you” payment of £350 per month is being offered per residential address for a period of up to 12 months, with sponsors being required to offer accommodation for a minimum of 6 months. Sponsors can be individuals, charities, businesses and community groups. Both the sponsoring household and those coming to the UK will be subject to safeguarding checks under this scheme.

To find out more information about the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, please see the government guidance for applicants here, and sponsors here

Ukraine Extension Scheme

From 3 May 2022, the government is also introducing an extension scheme for Ukrainian nationals and their dependants who are already in the UK (provided they had permission to stay in the UK on or before 18 March 2022) to allow them to extend their immigration permission for up to three years. This scheme will also be open to Ukrainians who previously held permission to stay in the UK but where this permission has expired since 1 January 2022.

Right to work in the UK

Ukrainian nationals and their immediate family members arriving in the UK under either of these schemes will have the right to live, work and study in the UK, as well as being able to access public funds. If you want to employ someone who has come to the UK under one of these routes, you will have to conduct right to work checks on these individuals before they start work in the usual way. Whilst employers will want to do what they can to help, it is important not to prioritise offering work to those coming to the UK under these schemes over others who are applying for the same roles as this could lead to discrimination claims.

Applicants who hold a valid Ukrainian international passport will be able to come to the UK under one of these schemes for an initial period of 6 months, endorsed by a stamp on their passport. Right to work checks will likely need to be carried out by employers against this endorsement and any immigration status document held by the individual. However, employers should check the latest right to work government guidance before undertaking any checks. If Ukrainian nationals wish to stay in the UK longer than 6 months, they will have to apply for a Biometric Residence Permit for their leave to be extended to up to 3 years. Employers will have to carry out repeat right to work checks upon the expiry of their employee’s initial entry visa.

Applicants who do not hold a valid Ukrainian international passport will need to book and attend an appointment at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) that they can safely travel to in order to apply for their visa. Applicants will then need to await a decision from UK Visas and Immigration and will be able to travel to the UK upon receiving an immigration status document, with their attached visa. Employers will likely need to carry out right to work checks against this immigration status document. Again employers should check the latest right to work government guidance before undertaking any checks.

Practical considerations

These schemes open up many practical considerations for employers, including the following:

  • Sponsorship - businesses and organisations, as well as individuals, can be a sponsor under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. You may want to consider whether you are able to offer accommodation under this scheme.
  • Employee sponsors - you should be mindful that you may have employees who want to volunteer, or who have already volunteered as a sponsor under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. You may want to consider whether you are able to offer support in these circumstances, for example, more flexibility in terms of working from home and/or time off to help your employees adjust to this lifestyle change.
  • Wellbeing support - employers employing Ukrainian employees may want to consider implementing additional wellbeing support for them. You may also want to consider extending this support to existing employees who may have family members from Ukraine joining them in the UK, or who are currently in the process of assisting family members to apply under the Ukraine Family Scheme.
  • Practical support - you may also wish to consider how you can support Ukrainian nationals who may be joining as employees, but who do not have any prior connections to the UK. This could include providing them with information and support for signing up to GP surgeries and schools.
  • Usual recruitment considerations - you should adhere to your usual recruitment practices. As mentioned above, people coming to the UK under these schemes do not take priority for jobs over other applicants and you may otherwise leave yourself open to the risk of discrimination claims.

Other routes

It is important to remember that, in addition to these new, tailored routes, the usual immigration routes remain open to employers wishing to employ Ukrainian nationals assuming they meet the entry requirements.

If you are using the pre-existing routes (such as Skilled Worker), you may wish to take into account the following practical considerations:

  • The availability of application centres – individuals applying for a visa to come to the UK will need to visit a VAC to have their biometrics taken and to provide any necessary supporting documentation. VACs in Ukraine are currently closed, but Ukrainians can apply at a VAC in any country that they can safely travel to.
  • Timing of visas - the usual visa options can take time to be granted and are subject to the usual risks of being delayed or rejected. This may not be workable for individuals in the current situation.
  • Costs - there are various costs associated with the different immigration routes and for some routes, individuals will need to prove they have a certain level of funds or savings, which some individuals may face difficulty in funding at this time. Employers may be able to pay some of these costs on behalf of the individuals or certify that they can meet the maintenance requirements; however, it may create some logistical/practical issues and will of course increase costs for employers.
  • Scrutiny from the Home Office – in light of the situation in Ukraine, the Home Office may seek additional reassurance that other immigration routes are being used for their intended purpose (for example, to fill a genuine vacancy within the UK) rather than solely to facilitate a Ukrainian national’s entry to the UK. Employers should therefore be certain that the requirements of the specific visa are met and be prepared for additional scrutiny in respect of this.

If you would like further information, please contact Huw Cooke, a Senior Associate in our Employment Team.

This guidance note gives general information only and is not intended to be an exhaustive statement of the law. Although we have taken care over the information, you should not rely on it as legal advice. We do not accept any liability to anyone who does rely on its content.

Key contact

Huw Cooke

Huw Cooke Senior Associate

  • Employment
  • Business Immigration Services
  • Data Protection

Sign up for employment law updates

Burges Salmon careers

We work hard to make sure Burges Salmon is a great place to work.
Find out more