Homes for Ukraine: How UK's Ukraine refugee scheme will work, how to apply and how to sponsor Ukrainian refugees

The Homes for Ukraine scheme, allowing people in the UK to host Ukrainian refugees in their home,is set to be revealed today – here’s what we know so far
Homes for Ukraine: How UK's Ukraine refugee scheme will work, how to apply and how to sponsor Ukrainian refugees (Image credit: Omar Marques/Getty Images)Homes for Ukraine: How UK's Ukraine refugee scheme will work, how to apply and how to sponsor Ukrainian refugees (Image credit: Omar Marques/Getty Images)
Homes for Ukraine: How UK's Ukraine refugee scheme will work, how to apply and how to sponsor Ukrainian refugees (Image credit: Omar Marques/Getty Images)

As bombardments of Ukrainian cities by Russian military widen to include Dnipro and Mariupol, the United Nations places the number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the country at 2,808,792, as of Sunday March 13.

Experts believe that this number could rise to 4 million in the next few weeks as people in the UK prepare to welcome Ukraine’s refugees into their homes under the UK Government’s upcoming Homes for Ukraine scheme.

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The Sanctuary Foundation has already seen more than 15,000 individuals pledge to sponsor and support Ukrainian refugees coming to the UK, with the UK Government’s refugee sponsorship scheme set to be rolled out on Monday (March 14).

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The new scheme will see some visa requirements and refugee rules for Ukrainian refugees relaxed, as well as financial support provided for British citizens who host a Ukrainian refugee in their home.

But what is the Homes for Ukraine refugee scheme?

And how will the UK’s Ukraine refugee scheme work?

Here’s what we know so far.

What is the UK’s Ukrainian refugee scheme?

Currently, refugees fleeing from Ukraine as Russia’s war on the country continues can only travel to the UK with a visa or valid Ukrainian passport.

Visas have been mostly restricted to those who have family members living in the UK, with application processing centres in Ukraine closed and those seeking other forms of visas forced to visit visa application centres in other European countries to complete their applications.

The Home Office introduced its Ukraine Family Scheme on Friday March 4, which prioritises visa applications of refugees with family members of people living in the UK and offers a three year visa.

But after continuing accounts of Ukrainians with British nationals or settled UK citizens as family members being turned away at the UK border in Calais, the Home Office reduced the red tape on Ukrainian refugee entry into the UK further.

From Tuesday, March 15 2022, those applying for visas through the Ukraine Family Scheme will not be required to give biometric information or visit visa application centres, so long as they have a valid Ukrainian passport and comply with the scheme’s requirements.

Rather than a visa, they will be given a letter guaranteeing them permission to travel to the UK and their passport will be given a six-month entry stamp by Border Force, allowing them to live, work, study and be entitled to benefits.

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This can be extended for up to 36 months upon making an application to extend their stay once in the UK.

Those who are Ukrainian and do not have family in the UK will soon be able to seek refuge in the UK via the Local Sponsorship Scheme, also known as the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme.

Those applying for a UK visa who do not have a valid Ukrainian passport from Tuesday March 15 will still be required to attend a visa application centre and follow the traditional process.

How will the Homes for Ukraine refugee scheme work?

While the full details of the UK’s local sponsorship scheme for Ukrainian refugees, Homes for Ukraine, are still to come, Levelling Up and Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove has revealed that individuals, local businesses, charities and organisations will be able to sponsor Ukrainians without any UK family members to seek refuge in the country.

The scheme is expected to allow local authorities to claim £10,500 per refugee, and more for those children of school age, to help provide the resources needed to settle in the UK.

Meanwhile, any individual British households taking in Ukrainian refugees will be eligible to receive a payment for £350 per month – but they will need to register interest and find any refugees to sponsor themselves.

Families accepting refugees into their homes will be required to undergo security checks in order to ensure the safety of those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, who are mostly women and children as men aged 18-60-years-old have been required to stay and fight.

Anyone offering to sponsor Ukrainian refugees on the Homes for Ukraine scheme must also be willing to do so for at least six months.

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While people wait for the UK Government scheme to officially open, organisations and charities such as Refugees at Home and The Sanctuary Foundation are already taking registrations of interest from people and businesses across the UK.

The Sanctuary Foundation has seen more than 17,000 pledges of support and sponsorship from individuals, schools, universities, community groups, businesses and churches so far – stating on its website that “declaring your interest will greatly assist the development and acceleration of [the humanitarian sponsorship programme] for Ukrainian refugees.”

Will the Homes for Ukraine refugee scheme apply in Scotland?

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that Scotland stands ready to accept thousands of Ukrainian refugees as a ‘super sponsor’ during the refugee crisis – with the Homes for Ukraine scheme set to apply across the UK.

Along with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, Nicola Sturgeon said that devolved administrations should be able to lead on the scheme in their own nations.

"I want Scotland to play our full part in welcoming Ukrainians seeking sanctuary from war,” Ms Sturgeon said on Sunday (March 13).

"The UK response so far has been beset with bureaucracy and red tape, when what is needed is humanity and urgent refuge for as many as possible.”

Ms Sturgeon penned an open letter with the Welsh First Minister calling on the UK Government to follow in the footsteps of European countries such as Ireland and Poland in waiving visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees.

“It is neither reasonable nor morally acceptable to expect people fleeing war to go through complex bureaucratic processes in order to reach safety within the UK,” the letter states, along with detailing plans for both Scotland and Wales to accept the same number of refugees from Ukraine as from Syria previously.

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“We are confident we can deliver a comprehensive offer in Scotland and in Wales which incorporates contributions from private citizens and the third sector but draws in the capacity of the wider public service and their experience of large scale resettlement in the past,” said Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford.

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