Politics

Priti Patel extends Ukrainian family scheme after continued pressure to waive visas

THE HOME Secretary has extended a scheme for Ukrainians fleeing the war to enable them to stay in the UK for up to three years.

Priti Patel announced today that the scheme, which will be open to people fleeing Ukraine who have relatives settled in the UK, will be extended from 12 months to three years. 

It means the parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren or siblings of UK residents will be able to apply to come to the UK, but will still have to go through security and visa checks.

Applications under the Ukraine Family Scheme are free, and those who are approved will not have to pay the NHS fee for medical treatment in the UK while they are here. 

The Home Secretary was coming under fire from opposition politicians, who were urging her to copy the EU’s plan, which was to allow those fleeing the war refuge in their countries for three years without a visa. 

However Ms Patel said she was not willing to waive visas and applicants still had to be screened by security, over fears that Russia could seek to take advantage of the open border and infiltrate the UK. 

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “It’s heart-breaking to have met families, women and children forced from their homeland because of the monstrous Russian invasion.

“Our expanded Ukraine Family Scheme is now fully open and to see the first people who will apply was wonderful. While we want people to be able to return to their homes at the end of this diabolical invasion, giving thousands of people a route to the UK is the right thing to do.

“The whole of the UK is united in our condemnation of Russia’s barbaric and cold-blooded actions and the Government is doing everything possible to make certain our humanitarian support is in Ukraine’s best interests.”

Around 100 people are thought to have applied for the family scheme before it was extended today, with the Home Office unclear on the total number of applicants they will receive from the new scheme.

All Ukrainian-based Visa centres have now closed, with Home Office staff being sent to stations in nearby countries including Hungary, Poland and Moldova. A new pop-up Visa Application Centre in Rzeszow, Poland, has also opened. 

By the end of March the Home Office is hoping to have capacity at the centres to accomodate up to 6000 appointments a week, for people who need to be processed. 

Alongside the extended family scheme, those who do not have relatives in the UK can also apply under the points-based Skilled Worker route, or seasonal worker route, as well as a new sponsorship scheme.

The sponsorship scheme allows private citizens, communities or companies to sponsor people to come and live in the UK for up to 12 months. 

For more information, call the 24/7 helpline line on +44 (0)808 164 8810 or visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/support-for-family-members-of-british-nationals-in-ukraine-and-ukrainian-nationals-in-ukraine-and-the-uk#family-migration-visa .

 

 

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