ArticleHome Office announces sudden closure of the Ukraine Family Scheme

In an unexpected turn of events, the UK Home Office through the statement of changes HC 556, has announced the immediate closure of the Ukraine Family Scheme, effective from 3 pm on 19 February 2024. This move, which was not previously indicated, accompanies other significant changes affecting care workers and other Ukraine schemes.

Changes to care worker visas

Effective from 11 March 2024, care workers in the UK will face new restrictions. Applications submitted before this date will be processed under the existing rules, but from 11 March, new requirements come into force. Notably, care workers and senior care workers will no longer be allowed to bring dependent partners and children unless they meet certain exceptions. Additionally, a new mandate requires sponsors of care workers to be registered with the Care Quality Commission, a requirement that does not apply to those extending their stay with the same employer.

Abrupt End to the Ukraine Family Scheme:

The Ukraine Family Scheme, which facilitated the safe transfer of Ukrainian family members to the UK, has been closed without prior notice. The scheme was granted around 100 visas per week as of September 2023. This closure shifts the focus to the 18-month extension under the Ukraine Permission Extension scheme, which itself will close to new applications after 16 May 2024

Post-19 February, the primary route for Ukrainians seeking refuge in the UK will be the Homes for Ukraine Scheme. However, this too faces changes: applicants from 11 March 2024 will receive 18 months of leave instead of three years, and eligibility criteria for sponsors are being tightened.

The statement of changes also expands the grounds on which applications made under the Ukraine schemes can be rejected. This includes previous breaches of immigration laws and failure to provide required information.

In a positive development, children born in the UK to parents with permission under the Ukraine Scheme can apply to the Ukraine Extension Scheme after 16 May 2024 and will be granted leave aligned with their parent(s).

The unannounced closure of the Ukraine Family Scheme marks a significant shift in the UK’s immigration policy towards Ukraine, moving away from the initial spirit of generosity and inclusivity. While the government’s focus seems to be on preventing misuse and streamlining the immigration process, this abrupt change has raised concerns about the underlying intentions and the impact on Ukrainian families seeking safety in the UK. As the UK continues to amend its immigration policies, the closure of the Ukraine Family Scheme will likely be a point of contention and debate in the coming days.

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