LONDON — A new visa regime will allow Ukrainians fleeing war without relatives in Britain to work in the UK and have full access to state benefits for up to three years.
Addressing the House of Commons on Monday, Communities Secretary Michael Gove said that under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, due to launch on Friday, anyone in the UK with at least six months of residence permit will be allowed to sponsor a Ukrainian citizen or resident.
Sponsors will be required to submit to “light” checks and provide accommodation for at least six months. In return for their support, they will be paid £350 a month by the government, with these payments being tax-free and not affecting entitlement to benefits or the council’s tax status.
Gove said there would be no cap on visas granted under the scheme, which will initially allow sponsorships “between people with known connections”. It will then be expanded “gradually” to allow churches, community groups and charities to sponsor Ukrainians in need, but there is no date yet for this expansion, he added.
Local authorities hosting Ukrainians will receive additional funding to ensure school places are available, Gove said.
The British government has been criticized for the low number of Ukrainians who have obtained visas to settle in the UK since Russia launched its invasion of the country compared to other European states. Ministers touted the new scheme as a game-changer that will increase the number of Ukrainians settling in Britain.
Labour’s shadow communities secretary Lisa Nandy hailed the sponsorship scheme after weeks of delay, but warned that “a press release is not a plan and we are truly deeply concerned about the lack of emergency”.
Gove insisted the government is “moving as soon as possible” to launch the program in conjunction with NGOs and local government.