Ukrainian citizens have been forced to hide, fight and flee since Russia launched a full-scale assault on the country February 24.
Countries including the UK have raised funds, donated supplies and even welcomed refugees into their homes.
Homes for Ukraine
‘Homes for Ukraine’ is a government scheme that has been set up for UK residents who want to sponsor families and individuals fleeing Ukraine. This scheme was launched Friday 18 March, for visa applications from Ukrainian applicants with individuals and organisations wanting to become their sponsor.
Anyone in the UK can ‘record their interest’ on the GOV.UK website. Home owners can offer a bed under this scheme, providing they can host them for a minimum of six months. You can even apply if you’re not a British citizen, but you must still have leave to remain in the UK for at least half a year.
The government says there is no limit on the amount of Ukrainian refugees who can come to the UK under this scheme.
Which Ukrainians are eligible?
- Ukrainian nationals who were residents in Ukraine prior to January 1 2022 and their immediate family members
- Non-Ukrainian family members including a spouse, civil partner, an unmarried partner (have to had lived together for at least two years), children, parents under 18, fancé, or a proposed civil partner.
Which UK residents are eligible?
The government have set out strict requirements to be approved as a sponsor.
- Based in the UK
- Have at least six months permission to be in the UK
- Provide one of the following documents to prove identity; UK Passport; Irish Passport or Passport Card; Biometric Residence Permit; Biometric Residence Card; Refugee Travel Document; UK -issued photo driving licence; Irish-issued photo driving licence; or a Crown Dependency-issued photo driving licence.
- Can provide accommodation for for at least six months
- Can ensure that all adults in the sponsor’s household meet suitability requirement
Suitability requirements and relevant checks
The Home Office will conduct extensive checks on the sponsor and any adults under the same roof when considering visa applications. These include checks against government records and those of third parties (Police National Computer, or the Northern Ireland equivalent). Leading sponsors must ensure all persons in their household consent to the inspections.
If the Home Office deems that you are not fit to become a sponsor, they might refuse the visa application on the basis that you do not meet the requirements for approval.
Grounds for refusal can be:
- The provision of false or inaccurate information
- Criminal convictions
- Immigration offences
- Any other illegal activity
Local authorities will complete checks on accommodation and any living arrangements as part of the visa application process.
The type of Disclosure of Barring Service (DBS) checks will be determined by local authorities. If your guests have children in their household an Enhanced DBS (including a check of the children’s barred list) will be undertaken. Enhanced DBS (including a check of the adults’ barred list) to be undertaken on any members of the sponsor’s household who is to provide that support.
The government asks that any concerns about potential abuse is reported as soon as possible.
Local councils will be sending sponsors ‘thank you payments’ of £320 a month for as long as they are sponsors to refugees.
You can only receive one payment for each residential address in England.
The government is ensuring that these ‘thank you payments’ will not affect benefit entitlements for sponsors who get welfare payments.
Guests can apply for Universal Credit with 3 forms of ID and will also be able to apply for advance payments.
Local councils will be also be sending refugees a £200 interim payment.
The sponsors housing must be free from serious health and safety hazards.
The sponsors homes must have:
- A working fire alarm
- A carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a burning fuel appliance
- A safe gas supply
- Access to a kitchen and bathroom
Home owners should abide by the current laws on … two people should not share a room unless they are; partners, a parent and child, siblings of the same gender over 10, siblings regardless of gender under 10.
The government encourages sponsors to set a few ‘ground rules’ with their guests.
Adapting to life
Sponsors have a reasonable expectation to uphold when it comes to supporting their guests once they have come to the UK.
Home owners should make the refugees feel comfortable in the places they are sleeping.
Guests should have:
- Essential supplies e.g. toiletries
- A mobile phone helping them stay in touch with friends and family
As a sponsor, you should give guidance on how to access public services.
Guests should be registered with a local GP and NHS dentist.
Local councils have the responsibility to:
- Register children with schools
- English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes
- Refer guests to mental health services if needed
- Arrange appointments at local Job Centres and benefits assessments
Further support available
- Each local council will provide information about the support they have available in the area
- Refer back to the GOV.UK website to see regularly updated guidance
- Local Facebook groups are great places for guests to meet other refugees
- The government will be sending Welcome Packs to guests offering guidance on housing, employment and access to public services
Featured image source: unsplash