All you need to know about the Ukraine refugee scheme

Picture taken with permission from the twitter feed of Manny Marotta of refugees fleeing the Ukraini

Picture taken with permission from the twitter feed of Manny Marotta of refugees fleeing the Ukrainian city of Lviv towards the Polish border following Russia's invasion of Ukriane - Credit: PA

People are being urged to open up their doors to Ukrainian refugees after the government announced its new campaign to help people in the war-torn country.

Details have been outlined of a sponsorship campaign which allows individuals and organisations to offer homes to refugees fleeing the conflict amid fears of a wider confrontation between Russia and NATO.

For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only BBC handout photo of Levelling Up, Housing and Comm

Michael Gove announced the launch of the Homes for Ukraine campaign today, allowing for people in the UK to apply to host Ukrainian refugees - Credit: PA

Communities Secretary Michael Gove said there will be no limits on the number of Ukrainians who can be offered a home in Britain.

The announcement comes amid growing criticism at the government's response so far, with Amnesty International UK accusing the government of "trying to save face" rather than delivering an effective response to the needs of Ukrainians fleeing the war. 

Screengrab from the UK Government website showing the Home for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme. Issue dat

Screengrab from the UK Government website showing the Home for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme. Issue date: Monday March 14, 2022. - Credit: PA

Homes for Ukrainians Scheme

The UN’s refugee agency believes more than 2.8 million people have left Ukraine in search of safety.

Previously only Ukrainians with family members already settled in the UK could come.

Most Read

But under the new scheme, sponsors can provide a route for Ukrainians without family ties to come to the UK.

How does it work?

Ukrainians will be able to live and work in the UK for up to three years under the scheme, with “full and unrestricted access to benefits, healthcare, employment and other support”.

Initially the scheme will allow sponsors in the UK to nominate a named Ukrainian or a named Ukrainian family to stay with them in their home or in a separate property.

Mr Gove said that the scheme will “rapidly” expand this by working with charities, faith and community groups.

Who can apply to be a host?

Sponsors can be of any nationality as long as they have permission to be in the UK for at least six months.

A new website will allow people to record their interest ahead of phase one of the scheme opening for applications for Friday.

Those who have a named Ukrainian they wish to sponsor should contact them directly and prepare to fill in a visa application, with the application launching on Friday, March 18. 

How long can refugees stay with a family or individual?

Members of the public providing accommodation to Ukrainians must do so for at least six months.

Sponsored Ukrainians will be granted three years’ leave to remain in the UK, with entitlement to work and access public services.

What security checks will be carried out?

Sponsors and all adults in their households will need to submit to security checks and possibly also safeguarding checks.

The suitability of the accommodation may also be assessed by their local council.

Ukrainians will be subject to “standard” security checks, according to the website, with biometric checks made after they arrive in the UK to avoid delays.

Will there be any compensation?

Those offering a place to stay will receive an optional tax-free monthly payment of £350 which will not affect benefit entitlements or council tax status.

The “thank you” payment is limited to one payment per residential address.

Hosts should not charge any rent.

“Additional payments” will be available to support school-age children who need to be accommodated within the education system.

Do sponsors provide anything other than accommodation?

Sponsors are not expected to provide meals or cover the costs of food and living expenses for their guests, unless they wish to do so philanthropically.

The government will provide information to sponsors so that they can point their guests to organisations who can help them access benefits, register with a GP and with school placements.

Who can be a guest?

The website says someone is eligible if they are a “Ukrainian national or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national, and were resident in Ukraine prior to January 1, 2022.”

The scheme is open for adults and children within family units.

How do you apply?

Anyone who already knows a Ukrainian they want to sponsor should get in touch with them and prepare to fill in a visa application. The visa application system will go live on Friday.

Those who do not know someone they want to host can now register their interest on the website

The government will work with charities, faith groups and universities to match potential hosts with people from Ukraine.

More detailed guidance for sponsors will become available in the coming days, according to the website.

Anyone registering will receive updates on the security checks, information on the status of the arrangement and the role of the local council in providing wider support.

How many Ukrainians are expected to be helped through the scheme?

The government is setting no limit, saying the UK will welcome as many Ukrainians as wish to come and for whom there are sponsors.

Members of the public are being urged to come forward and help if they can.

In less than an hour, 1,500 people had already registered for the scheme, Mr Gove told MPs, adding that he hopes the first Ukrainians to receive support under the project will arrive within a week.

Shadow Foreign secretary Lisa Nandy speaks on stage at the Labour Party conference in Brighton. Pict

Shadow Foreign secretary Lisa Nandy speaks on stage at the Labour Party conference in Brighton. Picture date: Monday September 27, 2021. - Credit: PA

What has been the response?

The government has faced widespread criticism for its response to the refugee crisis so far, with critics noting that unlike the UK all EU countries have waived visa requirements for Ukrainians in the short term.

Shadow communities secretary Lisa Nandy welcomed the news of the scheme but added:  “A press release is not a plan and we are really deeply concerned about the lack of urgency.”

Amnesty International UK has said it believes the UK government is "trying to save face" and said:  “After the Home Office’s chaotic and coldly bureaucratic response, the sponsorship scheme smacks of ‘emergency PR’ from a Government which has totally misread the public mood."

The NSPCC has also spoke of its concerns, saying it was "essential that the Government works closely with local authorities, the fostering community, charities and other key local partners to ensure this sponsorship scheme is ultimately safe."

Mr Gove, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and actor Benedict Cumberbatch have said they might apply to the scheme, while Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Sajid Javid have indicated they will not.