UK government restricts visas for Ukrainians fleeing Russian invasion

UK government restricts visas for Ukrainians fleeing Russian invasion
Unlike neighbouring Ireland, the UK Home Office is advising ‘family members of British nationals’ to make visa appointments in Lviv - nearly 600km from the Ukrainian capital - and has stopped issuing all other visas.
3 min read
26 February, 2022
Ukrainians are heading to the borders in their thousands, fleeing the Russian invasion [Getty]

The UK Home Office has stopped issuing visas to Ukrainian nationals as the multi-pronged Russian invasion causes violent clashes on the streets of the capital Kyiv.

Only family members of British nationals will be able to obtain visas - and will have to travel to a temporary consulate in Lviv, near Ukraine’s western border with Poland. 

Without the correct documentation, Ukrainians fleeing the conflict and looking to reach the United Kingdom will be refused entry to flights, trains or ferries that will take them there.  

Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, said the Home Office should ensure Ukrainians with family in the UK could “swiftly” join them “as a top priority”.

Russian forces gaining territory in the east of the country are making routes to Lviv increasingly inaccessible, as civilians jam the country’s roads fleeing the growing conflict.  
Outside the Home Office building in Westminster, the Ukrainian flag is flying alongside the Union Jack, while No. 10, the residence of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, bore yellow and blue projections reflecting the country’s flag. 

Meanwhile, the Home Office continued to stall on setting up refugee routes for Ukrainian nationals fleeing the conflict. 

Last week, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said “we cannot make any commitment about any refugees at this stage”. 

Those travelling without a visa to neighbouring Ireland, however, will have 90 days after arrival to make an asylum claim after the EU country lifted entry requirements for Ukrainian nationals fleeing the conflict. 

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Nationality and borders bill 

And while 50 leading charities, NGOs and aid agencies working with refugees in the UK have warned the government over inaction to support Ukrainian refugees in an open letter this week, the controversial Nationality and Borders bill continues to make its way through parliament. 

Millions of Ukrainian nationals who are expected to flee the country as clashes intensify would be criminalised for attempting to reach the UK without gaining a visa beforehand, under the new legislation. 

The proposed legislation, which reaches the House of Lords on Monday 28 February, allows for differential treatment of refugees depending on how they reached the country, and would restrict access to the UK for those who entered via a third ‘safe’ country. 

Only 30 Ukrainian asylum claims have been successful in the UK since 2014, according to reporting by Byline Times.