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20 Feb 24

Ukrainians who came to the UK following the Russian invasion will be able to apply for 18-month extensions to their visas, the government says. 

Since the invasion almost exactly two years ago some 200,000 Ukrainians and family members have come to the UK; the visas of the first to come to the UK were due to expire in March 2025 although with the extension this will now be at least September 2026.

The extension will apply to all three visa schemes set up following the invasion: the Homes for Ukraine scheme, the Ukraine Family Scheme, and the Ukraine Extension Scheme. Those on the schemes will continue to have the same rights to access work, benefits, healthcare, and education.

Applications for the extensions will be open from early 2025, and people will be able to apply once they are in the last three months of an existing visa.

Migration minister Tom Pursglove says: “Families across the country have opened their homes and their hearts to the people of Ukraine, showing extraordinary generosity, including offering shelter to those fleeing from the horrors of war.”

The UK will “continue to provide a safe haven for those fleeing the conflict,” he adds.

At the end of September 2023, the government had provided £2.1 billion in funding the Homes for Ukraine scheme, the majority through payments to local councils and thank you payments to sponsors, and the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities continues to provide funding for new arrivals. 

This money is not ringfenced as DLUHC wanted local authorities to have discretion in how best to support Ukrainians locally. Some local authorities told the NAO that they are holding amounts in reserve in case of further pressures, as it is not clear whether central government will continue to provide funding.

‘Thank you’ payments of £350 a month in year one and £500 a month in year two are paid to sponsors hosting Ukrainian refugees, but these are due to finish one year before visas expire. Just under 74,000 sponsors have applied to host Ukrainians under the scheme. 

It is anticipated that those Ukrainians no longer staying with hosts are likely to seek private rented accommodation.

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