The war in Ukraine and claiming asylum in the UK

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
28 February 2022

The Russian military operations in the Ukraine will result in the civilian population suffering, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has expressed grave concerns over the fast deteriorating situation and the ongoing military action in Ukraine. He called on neighbouring countries to keep the borders open to those seeking safety and protection. There are reports of people fleeing en masse and the UK Border Agency has published guidance for support for family members of British nationals in Ukraine, and Ukrainian nationals in the UK.

Following a No. 10 statement of 17 February 2022, we expect a further update to the Home Office guidance imminently.

What is the new concession and its implications for family members?

Individuals can apply for family migration visas for free if they are family members of British nationals who usually live in Ukraine.  The British national family member must be a spouse or unmarried partner, parent (if you are under 18), if you are a child (under 18) or adult relative you provide care for who lives with you due to medical reasons.

Can I sponsor an adult dependent relative to come and join me in the UK?

The concession does not deal with non-British elderly relatives who are not currently being cared for by their British family members in the Ukraine. However, we are eager to assist family members in making an application for entry clearance for those parents, arguing that there cannot be adequate care for adult dependent relatives in a country at war with Russia and also because it is impractical to expect the British national to relocate to provide care in the Ukraine.

Where can the applications be made from?

The UK Visa Application Centre in Kyiv is closed and therefore family members of British nationals who usually live in Ukraine and need a UK visa can apply through centres in Lviv, or through VAC in a nearby country such as Poland, Romania, Hungary of Muldova.

How long will it take?

UKVI aims to process family migration applications without 24 hours of submission.

What applications can Ukrainians who live in the UK make?

If you are a Ukrainian visitor the Home Office has introduced a temporary concession to allow you to switch onto the points based route or a family route.

Can a skilled worker switch to another visa?

If you have a skilled worker visa due to expire you can apply to extend or apply for settlement providing you fulfil the Immigration Rules.  The same applies to students who can either extend their visa or switch to a graduate visaSeasonal workers can extend their visa until 31st December 2022 if they cannot return to Ukraine, but are not permitted to anything except extend the visa to work in the same job permitted by the seasonal worker’s route.

Will Ukrainians be granted refugee status?

The Home Office will now be reviewing this policy on asylum claims for Ukrainian citizens who are already in the UK or by those who can make their way to the UK.  Many Ukrainians will also be successful on the basis of a claim for humanitarian protection if they can demonstrate they would face a real risk of suffering serious harm if returned to Ukraine and cannot available themselves of the protection of that country. They would be granted humanitarian protection under Immigration Rule paragraph 339C and 339C(a).

What is the difference between being granted refugee status or humanitarian protection?

The difference is not substantial and the Home Office will usually consider an asylum application and if that cannot be granted it will move on to assess whether humanitarian protection cannot be granted. If that is not successful, it will consider whether permission can be granted on a discretionary basis.  Refugee status will be granted under paragraph 334 of the Immigration Rules and both refugees and those granted humanitarian protection will receive leave to remain for five years with permission to work, study and access the NHS and Social Benefits.  They will have the same rights to family reunion and at the end of the five year period refugees and those granted leave under the humanitarian protection scheme rule can apply for indefinite leave to remain if there are no substantial changes in their personal circumstances or in the country’s circumstances.

How can we help?

We are happy to provide free consultations to those who wish to obtain information about claiming asylum in the UK or assist family members from Ukraine to come to the UK.  Based on the information you provide we will be able to provide you with advice on the supporting documentation you need for the application and if instructed, assist you in submitting the application. An experienced immigration lawyer can review the entire application to ensure that you meet the immigration Rules and support you in this stressful time. We closely monitor the situation in the Ukraine and review the UK Government’s response.