Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law
Statement of Changes HC 719: Ukraine Extension Scheme
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The Ukraine Extension Scheme is one of the three visa schemes set up for people displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine (alongside the Homes for Ukraine and Ukraine Family Schemes). All three Ukraine Visa Schemes result in a grant of three years of limited leave to remain with the right to work and to access public funds. As of 4 October 2022 16,300 Ukraine Extension Scheme applications had been received and 12,000 granted (with around 700 refusals).
Updated Immigration Rules
From 9 November 2022, the Immigration Rules for the Ukraine Extension Scheme have been updated to:
- Extend the timeframe for applications within the rules. Applications can be made by people with limited leave up to 16 May 2023. This is not an exciting change, because there was already a temporary policy concession in place to this effect in the Home Office caseworker guidance published on 12 August 2022.
- Create a deadline of 16 November 2023 which would be the end date for the scheme.
Who can apply to the Ukraine Extension Scheme?
The scheme was created for Ukrainians on short term visas whose leave was running out. Given the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine and the fact that the Ukraine Extension Scheme only went live on 3 May 2022, there was a very real risk that people on time-limited visas would be left without leave to remain and would therefore be caught up in punitive hostile environment measures. It is a visa scheme that allows people on time-limited visas such as student, work (including seasonal worker), visit and family visas to extend their leave.
Some people displaced from Ukraine have arrived in the UK through Ireland and those who were able to find an immigration officer on arrival will usually have been granted six months limited leave to enter the UK outside of the rules through a process of coded entry. They can then apply from within the UK to switch into the Ukraine Extension Scheme.
It is also possible to make applications using the Ukraine Extension Scheme to request a grant of leave to remain outside of the rules. For example, the Home Office Ukraine Extension Scheme: caseworker guidance notes that some people displaced from Ukraine will have arrived through Ireland and “some individuals will have not encountered an Immigration Officer to be granted permission to enter and will therefore not have permission. These cases should be referred to a [senior case worker]”.
Under Appendix Ukraine Scheme of the Immigration Rules, an application for the Ukraine Extension Scheme is made from within the UK by a Ukrainian national or their visa-dependent partner or child (UKR 23.1) where (UKR 21.3):
- They had permission to stay in the UK on 18 March 2022 or between 18 March 2022 and 16 May 2023; or
- They had a visa immediately before 1 January 2022 and that visa has since expired; or
- They are a child born in the UK to a parent to qualifies under the Ukraine Extension Scheme.
A child’s application will only be granted under the Ukraine Extension Scheme if there are “suitable arrangement for the child’s care and accommodation” (UKR 26.1) and parental consent is needed if they are not applying with a parent (UKR25.1).
Is the Ukraine Extension Scheme the best option?
For many people affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a Ukraine Scheme visa is a good option in the short term. It is free of charge and has a fairly straightforward application route. It also allows people to travel between the UK and Ukraine or third countries where relatives may have been displaced. There is no maximum cap on time that can be spent outside the UK, except the two year time limit that applies to all limited leave under paragraph 20 of the Immigration Rules (if this is rigidly enforced for Ukrainian returnees while the conflict continues).
For people on a route to settlement, they will want to think carefully before switching into the Ukraine Scheme. There is huge uncertainty at present about any future renewal or settlement route. The government website says: “You should consider whether you want to keep your current visa or switch to the Ukraine Extension Scheme. This route does not currently lead to settlement”.
Some people who have arrived from Ukraine will not be in a position to return immediately, even if Ukraine becomes safe. This may be because they have nowhere to return to, because of vulnerability and disability issues or because of private life ties established in the UK, such as for all the Ukrainian students who will be part way through a degree at the point their three-year visas are due to run out. Some people will be looking for advice or back-up plans. Often, this means trying to switch into a work visa with a route to settlement. This is obviously more feasible for some people than others and many people will be waiting for an announcement on other renewal or settlement options.
Few Ukrainians have formally claimed asylum. Many should be able to do so, if they so wish, due to fear of persecution from the Russian state due to their race, nationality or imputed political opinion. Between January and June 2022 only 310 asylum applications were registered for Ukrainians and only 91 after the launch of the Ukraine Extension Scheme on 3 May. The Home Office Country Policy and Information Note: security situation, Ukraine, June 2022 is quite positive for people from conflict areas or for people with characteristics of vulnerability, for example:
“2.4.7 […] At the time of writing, it is considered that there is a real risk of serious harm by reason of indiscriminate violence in the Zaporizhia, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Kyiv and Kyiv City regions of Ukraine.[…] 2.4.10 […] decision makers must consider whether there are particular factors relevant to the person’s circumstances which might nevertheless place them at risk.”
Due to the extraordinarily long delays in the asylum process it can feel like a gamble for a Ukrainian to make an asylum claim. Yes, they qualify as a refugee right now. But the position may be very different in a year or so when a decision is finally made based on the country situation at the time. Nonetheless so many Ukrainians in the UK are refugees now and could be receiving advice on claiming asylum.
Those eligible are likely to be best-off obtaining leave to remain through a Ukraine Scheme visa and trying to upgrade this to more stable status on a route to settlement. In cases with particularly compelling circumstances it may also be worth requesting an early grant of indefinite leave to remain (as per the Applications for longer periods of leave provisions in the Refugee Leave policy). Immigration advisers will also need to provide individualised advice on the inadmissibility and differential treatment provisions from the Nationality and Borders Act 2022.
Interested in refugee law? You might like Colin's book, imaginatively called "Refugee Law" and published by Bristol University Press.
Communicating important legal concepts in an approachable way, this is an essential guide for students, lawyers and non-specialists alike.