The UK Home Office has announced that Ukrainian refugees in the UK will be able to extend their current visas by 18 months. The move follows a period of growing debate about the lack of certainty facing Ukrainians whose visas are shortly due to expire but with no end in sight to the war in their homeland.

The visa extension will be open to Ukrainians on all three bespoke visa schemes set up in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion – the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, the Ukraine Family Scheme, and the Ukraine Extension Scheme.

According to the Home Office, the move will affect more than 283,000 Ukrainians in Britain.

Tom Pursglove, the UK’s minister for legal migration, said in a statement: “This new visa extension scheme provides certainty and reassurance for Ukrainians in the UK on their future as this war continues, and we will continue to provide a safe haven for those fleeing the conflict.”

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According to Eduard Fesko, charge d'affaires at the Ukrainian embassy in the UK, the move sends a “clear signal” of the UK's support for Ukraine, adding: “We appreciate all the help and assistance that our UK friends so generously provide for the temporarily displaced Ukrainians.”

Visas under the three Ukraine schemes were initially issued for three years, with the first due to expire from March 2025.

The UK government has received several petitions demanding greater certainty, with those exceeding 10,000 signatures yielding an official response. Until recently, the message has been largely one of cautious optimism that Ukrainians would be able to return home to contribute to the country’s recovery, caveated that the situation would be kept under constant review.

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On Feb. 6, a parliamentary debate took place led by Conservative MP Pauline Latham which brought attention to the on-going uncertainties facing Ukrainians in the UK with visas close to expiring. It covered a wide range of issues, including the risk of homelessness, the impact on education, jobs, relationships and those in the health system.

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In October 2023, the UK’s National Audit Office released a report taking stock of what had been achieved to date as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme, for what cost, and what could be learned. This particular scheme involved UK sponsors opening their homes to Ukrainians and receiving “thank you” payments from local authorities to cover additional hosting costs.

There have been increasing calls for additional funding for already-stretched local authorities, with existing research pointing to Ukrainian refugee families in the UK being at particular risk of becoming homeless.

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