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Abingdon’s International Café

In our last newsletter we were just about to launch our first International Cafe aimed at welcoming refugees on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, and people of other nationalities looking for support and friendship locally.  It meets every Friday 1-3pm, and a month in, we are delighted to report that a growing number of people are enjoying the space to get to know others, practise their English and access helpful information.  As well as Ukrainians who have recently arrived, we have enjoyed meeting people from Poland, Syria, Eritrea and Kurdistan.

 
Supporting our Homes for Ukraine Hosts

So far we have connected with over 20 hosts who live in Abingdon and surrounding villages. They represent over 40 Ukrainians who now have the challenge of getting settled in a new country, whilst their hearts remain in another. Our goal is to help support and equip hosts so that they in turn feel able to journey well with their guests. We offer to visit hosts before guests arrive and make them aware of support available.

ESOL Language Classes

ESOL Language Classes

There is a growing demand for English classes at the moment and we recognise that it is a key to unlocking independence, jobs and relationships.  Host Abingdon is once again helping to run courses with the input of experienced and trained volunteers. 

Syrian Ladies ESOL Class – this will be run in St Ethelwold’s from mid-September and is aimed at helping improve English conversation skills.

General ESOL Class– this will be run at Abbey Baptist Church on Wednesday mornings 10.00-12.00 and is aimed at local refugees and asylum seekers looking to improve their English skills. We hope to provide a creche to allow parents and carers to be able to focus more on their learning. We are recruiting now for creche volunteers, so if you think you could help provide this vital role by joining the team, then please get in touch on ukraine@cca.net.uk

Click here for further information on the course

Helping local afghan families

It is good news that at last Afghan families are being resettled in the South and Vale area – they have for too long been stuck in hotels. A warm welcome and help are needed from local people as they begin to settle in our communities. Connection Support are the organisation responsible for helping with this task and they are looking for volunteers who would be able to spare an hour or so at a time to speak English in a home environment reinforcing the English terms for everyday items, greetings, requests etc. also to assist with localisation and understanding where to access some local amenities.

Rachel from Connection Support would like to meet any of us who might be interested in finding out more about this – so we will try to fix a meeting in Abingdon with her. Please email hello@hostabingdon.org if you would like to come along.

The Homes for Ukraine Scheme

New information about the Homes for Ukraine scheme is being published all the time. We will keep updating this page to reflect the latest government guidance.

The ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme opened for applications on 18th March. Under this scheme, UK residents are able to sponsor individuals or families to stay with them (either in their home, or in another property) for a minimum of 6 months. The government has launched this website where individuals or community groups can register interest in hosting. It is expected that the scheme will go through multiple phases. The first phase is open to individual members of the public to sponsor guests from Ukraine. In later phases, organisations and community groups will be able to sponsor multiple guests.

The government says there will be no cap or upper limit on the number of Ukrainians who can come under the scheme. However, like the ongoing Ukrainian Family Scheme, the Homes for Ukraine programme requires applicants to obtain a visa before arrival in the UK; refugee organisations continue to urge the government to relax the visa requirement for Ukrainians entirely.

On March 30th, the government announced that 28,300 applicants had so far been made under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, whilst 2,700 visas had been issued. They acknowledged that the visa application process, in its current form, is working too slowly, and promised faster response times in future.

Information for potential sponsors

 

Applying to sponsor and the matching process

Anyone with at least six months leave to remain in the UK can apply as a sponsor. In the ‘first phase’ of the scheme, you will need the details of a Ukrainian individual or family you wish to sponsor. Once both parties have agreed the arrangement, either the guest or the sponsor should fill in a single visa application form, including all the details of both guest and sponsor.

Useful guidance documents have been published by a variety of sources:

The government will not create a formal process for matching sponsors and guests; this will be carried out by community and faith groups and NGOs in the sector. Asylum Welcome will not be involved directly in this matching process. There are now a number of websites and initiatives set up both in Oxfordshire and nationally for matching sponsors and refugees. We urge both sponsors and guests to be cautious about sharing their information through matching websites, particularly those run by unregistered organisations, and about organising matches through social media.

  • For those local to Charlbury, Charlbury Refugee Action Group have a form for registering your interest in hosting here.
  • The Diocese of Oxford are working with Citizens UK on matching in the area. Their sponsorship sign-up is here.
  • Reset is the only matching site currently endorsed by the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain.
  • Refugees at Home, an established hosting organisation, are also assessing host families and matching.
  • Other matching sites include Opora and EU4UA.
  • Details of other matching options are available on Ukrainian London’s website.
  • These are in addition to the government’s website for registering interest in hosting here.

A lead sponsor will be needed for each household. For example, where a couple has applied to sponsor, one of them should be designated as ‘lead sponsor’. Once you apply, the government will contact you with additional information and instructions. Security checks (Police National Computer checks, criminal records and Warning Index checks) will be made by the Home Office on the sponsor, all the other adults in the sponsor’s household, and the guest, before the guest is issued with a permit to travel.

What counts as ‘suitable accommodation’?

Suitable accommodation could be a spare room or separate self-contained residential accommodation that is unoccupied. The accommodation must be available for at least six months, be fit for people to live in (safe, heated and free from health hazards), with adequate access to bathroom and kitchen facilities, and suitable for the number of people to be accommodated. A sofa bed in a living room or other shared space would not be considered suitable.

Two people should not be accommodated in one room unless they are: adult cohabiting partners; a parent and child; two siblings of the same gender if aged over 10; two siblings regardless of gender if aged under 10. Individuals who didn’t previously know each other should not be given the same room.

The government is also requiring that accommodation:

  • be kept clean and in a reasonable state;
  • have adequate kitchen and bathroom space;
  • have access to drinking water;
  • have a working smoke detector on each floor of the property and other fire safety precautions suitable for the building e.g. fire doors or escape routes as appropriate (further information on making a home safe from fire;
  • have a working carbon monoxide detector in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. a coal fire, wood burning stove);
  • have sufficient heating to keep the property at a comfortable temperature;
  • have safe gas appliances, fittings and flues and have undertaken a Gas Safety check within the last year (see more information);
  • have safe and working electrics, which a qualified electrician can help with if you are unsure;
  • be almost entirely free of damp or mould;
  • have doors and windows at entry level that lock properly;
  • be easy and safe to move around in, without excessively steep staircases that may cause harm.

Post-arrival

The council will have the right to make safeguarding checks on guests and inspect your accommodation. The council must make at least one in-person visit to you either before or shortly after the guest has arrived, to confirm that the accommodation is suitable and the guest is well and that there are no serious safeguarding or welfare concerns. The council will also undertake basic DBS checks on all adults in the sponsor household. In households where there are incoming arrivals who are children and/or vulnerable adults, an enhanced DBS check with barred lists check will be required for all adults in the sponsor household.

As well committing to provide suitable accommodation for a minimum of sixth months, as the sponsor, you will be required to stay in regular contact with your guest prior to their arrival to help organise and coordinate their arrival in the UK, meet them on arrival, and facilitate transfer to their accommodation. Guests arriving in the country will be eligible for a single onward journey via national rail, bus, light rail, and coach. This will be free of charge to anywhere in England, Scotland and Wales.

You will be expected to signpost your guest to public services (perhaps help them apply for Universal Credit) and assist them with tasks such as registering with a local GP surgery and setting up a bank account. The council is responsible for support guests to access local Jobcentre Plus appointments for benefit assessments and job-seeking, but you will likely have a part to play in this. You are not required to provide food for your guests, but you may wish to do so, particularly at the beginning of their stay.

Sponsors will receive an optional ‘thank you’ payment of £350/month per residence (regardless of the number of guests), administered by the council. This is not considered income, so will not affect income tax, council tax, mortgage payments, UC or other income thresholds. No payments will be made until the council has checked your property.

After six months

Sponsor and guest may choose to continue the hosting relationship beyond the initial six months. Sponsors should aim to give notice two months before the end of the 6 months (or with 2 months’ notice before any later date) if they do not want the sponsorship to continue.

Guests will have access to public funds and will be able to rent a property like anyone else. If they need to, they’ll be able to claim the housing part of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. The UK Government has useful information on renting property which is available in the How to Rent Guide.

Things to consider if you’re thinking about hosting somebody

  • Before deciding to host a refugee, consider your home situation and the community you are part of. What type of people would this suit? What speciality do the local support organisations around you have? Try to match your lives with those you are hosting — if you have young kids, consider supporting a family with young kids. If your children have left home, you might consider hosting a young adult.
  • It is important to place the refugee’s needs and agency at the centre. Think about what a refugee or a resettled family might need, rather than what you can offer. It is important that refugees feel supported but also have agency over their own lives and decisions; this is the key to successful resettlement in the long run!
  • Be gentle, patient and informed. Remember that many people may be traumatised by their experience and nervous upon arrival in the UK. Learn a little bit about the impact of trauma on individuals, and some relevant trauma-informed approaches. Put some of this into action while hosting.
  • Map the relevant local organisations and immigration advice providers you can draw on. Crucially, plan access to services (healthcare, education etc.) and language resources. This will make a huge difference in making refugees feel part of the wider community.
  • Don’t take pictures or post about your hosting experience on social media. Be respectful of the sensitive nature of this time and the reality in which many will have left loved ones behind. Even if you ask for permission to do this and gain it, step back and think about what purpose this really serves.

The government’s list of FAQs can be found here.

 

Information for Ukrainian Guests

 

Applications to the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ Scheme can be made via this link; full details of the sponsor(s) must be provided as part of this application. The online application form is also an application for a biometric immigration document. It is free to make an application, the immigration health surcharge, biometric enrolment fee and TB test do not apply. For Ukrainians who need assistance with the application process, there is a free 24/7 helpline +44 808 164 8810 (0808 164 8810 or +44 (0)175 390 7510 for those in the UK).

To apply to the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme you must be Ukrainian, or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national, who:

  • had been residing in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022 (including those who have now left Ukraine)
  • is currently outside the UK
  • has a UK-based sponsor who is eligible for the Homes for Ukraine Scheme

Ukrainians arriving in the UK under this scheme do not have to have family ties in the UK. Individuals arriving under this scheme will be allowed to stay in the UK for up to three years. They will be able to work and study in the UK, and will have access to benefits and local authority support. This may include:

  • Universal Credit – a payment for those of working age, to help with your living costs if you’re on a low income. You could be working (including self-employed or part time) or be out of work;
  • Pension Credit – extra money to help with your living costs if you’re over State Pension age which is 66 in the UK and on a low income;
  • Disability benefits – extra money to help with additional costs for those who have a long term physical or mental health condition or disability;
  • Carer’s Allowance – extra money if you care for someone at least 35 hours a week.
  • Child Benefit – extra money to help with the cost of raising a child.

The government will provide each local authority with £10,500 per resettled refugee to cover local services, such as education, healthcare and social services (with additional funds released for resettled children to attend school).

The local council will make one £200 initial payment to each guest for subsistence costs. Working age guests will be able to apply to receive Universal Credit and will be able to apply for advance payments where eligible. Pension-age guests will have access to State Pension Credit and Housing Benefit provided they meet eligibility criteria.

Instructions for Ukrainians with international passports

If the applicant holds a valid Ukrainian international passport or an expired Ukrainian international passport with a formal extension stamp issued by the Ukrainian government, the applicant will not need to attend an appointment at a visa application centre (VAC) to give their biometric information.

The applicant must upload a copy of their Ukrainian international passport. They must also provide documents that show the identity of the UK-based sponsor. This may include the sponsor’s passport, driving licence, national identity card or biometric residence permit. The applicant should also provide any documents that show they were residing in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022. The applicant should download the document uploading app (either TLS or VFS) in order to upload their documents.

Once the application has been processed, the applicant will receive an official permission letter from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) confirming that they can travel to the UK. The permission letter will allow the applicant to board a plane or other form of transport to the UK. Applicants should not travel to the UK until they have received an official permission letter.

On arrival in the UK, applicants should show their permission letter to UK Border Force officers, who will provide a 6-month entry stamp. The 6-month entry stamp is evidence of right to work, study and claim benefits in the UK.

Guests arriving in the country will be eligible for a single onward journey via national rail, bus, light rail, and coach. This will be free of charge to anywhere in England, Scotland and Wales. Eurostar is offering free travel to London from their European stations.

New arrivals must submit their biometrics within 6 months of arriving in the UK to extend their stay for up to 3 years and be issued with a biometric residence permit (BRP). The online form for arrivals to submit their biometric information is not yet available.

Instructions for Ukrainians without international passports

Applicants without valid Ukrainian international passports will need to book and attend an appointment at a visa application centre (VAC). This includes those with Ukrainian domestic passports or ID cards.

Applicants without passports must have their photograph and fingerprints taken at a VAC. Children under the age of 5 who do not hold a valid Ukrainian international passport will not have their fingerprints taken but will still need to book and attend a VAC appointment and have a digital photograph taken.

VACs in Ukraine are currently closed. There is a temporary VAC open in Rzeszow, Poland. Applicants must complete their online application and book an appointment before attending the Rzeszow VAC – walk-in appointments are no longer accepted. VACs are currently operating in European cities including Budapest, Chisinau, Warsaw, Bucharest and Paris.

There is currently no clear timeframe within which an applicant should expect a decision to be made on their application. Those who attend a VAC to give biometrics will be granted a visa if their application is accepted. It appears that those granted a visa prior to arrival in the UK will not need to give their biometrics again within six months of arriving

Bringing items into the UK

The government has released guidance on bringing personal items to the UK as a Ukrainian refugee. Arrivals will not have to stop at customs unless they arrive with a personal vehicle, a pet, prohibited or restricted goods or £10,000 or more in cash (or the equivalent in another currency) Those who arrive in personals vehicle will not need to register or tax their vehicle in the UK if they arrive as a refugee and the vehicle is registered and taxed in its home country and the vehicle is used in the UK for no more than 6 months. After six months, the vehicle must be registered and taxed.

Those who are planning on arriving with pets must call 03000 200 301 and press 2 to speak to an adviser, or email: pettravel@apha.gov.uk. Those who arrive with prohibited or restricted goods (including drugs, weapons, endangered animals, indecent or obscene materials) must speak with a customs officer on arrival. Those who arrive in the UK with £10,000 or more in cash (or the equivalent in other currencies), must tell a customs officer when they arrive. They do not need to do anything if they bring in cash under £10,000 (or equivalent).

Resources for Ukrainians

Sane Ukraine 

Daily online trauma and resilience support sessions for Ukrainians everywhere who need practical psychological and emotional support. Led by experts and translated into Ukrainian.

Sessions are held on zoom every day at 5:30pm UK time/7:30pm Ukrainian time led by experienced therapists and trauma coaches with Ukrainian translation. Sessions are 45 minutes long, except 60 minutes on Tuesdays.

Summary of the ‘Home for Ukraine’ Scheme

 

New information about the Homes for Ukraine scheme is being published all the time. We will keep updating this page to reflect the latest government guidance.

The ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme opened for applications on 18th March. Under this scheme, UK residents are able to sponsor individuals or families to stay with them (either in their home, or in another property) for a minimum of 6 months. The government has launched this website where individuals or community groups can register interest in hosting. It is expected that the scheme will go through multiple phases. The first phase is open to individual members of the public to sponsor guests from Ukraine. In later phases, organisations and community groups will be able to sponsor multiple guests.

The government says there will be no cap or upper limit on the number of Ukrainians who can come under the scheme. However, like the ongoing Ukrainian Family Scheme, the Homes for Ukraine programme requires applicants to obtain a visa before arrival in the UK; refugee organisations continue to urge the government to relax the visa requirement for Ukrainians entirely.

On March 30th, the government announced that 28,300 applicants had so far been made under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, whilst 2,700 visas had been issued. They acknowledged that the visa application process, in its current form, is working too slowly, and promised faster response times in future.

Information for potential sponsors

 

Applying to sponsor and the matching process

Anyone with at least six months leave to remain in the UK can apply as a sponsor. In the ‘first phase’ of the scheme, you will need the details of a Ukrainian individual or family you wish to sponsor. Once both parties have agreed the arrangement, either the guest or the sponsor should fill in a single visa application form, including all the details of both guest and sponsor.

Useful guidance documents have been published by a variety of sources:

The government will not create a formal process for matching sponsors and guests; this will be carried out by community and faith groups and NGOs in the sector. Asylum Welcome will not be involved directly in this matching process. There are now a number of websites and initiatives set up both in Oxfordshire and nationally for matching sponsors and refugees. We urge both sponsors and guests to be cautious about sharing their information through matching websites, particularly those run by unregistered organisations, and about organising matches through social media.

  • For those local to Charlbury, Charlbury Refugee Action Group have a form for registering your interest in hosting here.
  • The Diocese of Oxford are working with Citizens UK on matching in the area. Their sponsorship sign-up is here.
  • Reset is the only matching site currently endorsed by the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain.
  • Refugees at Home, an established hosting organisation, are also assessing host families and matching.
  • Other matching sites include Opora and EU4UA.
  • Details of other matching options are available on Ukrainian London’s website.
  • These are in addition to the government’s website for registering interest in hosting here.

A lead sponsor will be needed for each household. For example, where a couple has applied to sponsor, one of them should be designated as ‘lead sponsor’. Once you apply, the government will contact you with additional information and instructions. Security checks (Police National Computer checks, criminal records and Warning Index checks) will be made by the Home Office on the sponsor, all the other adults in the sponsor’s household, and the guest, before the guest is issued with a permit to travel.

What counts as ‘suitable accommodation’?

Suitable accommodation could be a spare room or separate self-contained residential accommodation that is unoccupied. The accommodation must be available for at least six months, be fit for people to live in (safe, heated and free from health hazards), with adequate access to bathroom and kitchen facilities, and suitable for the number of people to be accommodated. A sofa bed in a living room or other shared space would not be considered suitable.

Two people should not be accommodated in one room unless they are: adult cohabiting partners; a parent and child; two siblings of the same gender if aged over 10; two siblings regardless of gender if aged under 10. Individuals who didn’t previously know each other should not be given the same room.

The government is also requiring that accommodation:

  • be kept clean and in a reasonable state;
  • have adequate kitchen and bathroom space;
  • have access to drinking water;
  • have a working smoke detector on each floor of the property and other fire safety precautions suitable for the building e.g. fire doors or escape routes as appropriate (further information on making a home safe from fire;
  • have a working carbon monoxide detector in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. a coal fire, wood burning stove);
  • have sufficient heating to keep the property at a comfortable temperature;
  • have safe gas appliances, fittings and flues and have undertaken a Gas Safety check within the last year (see more information);
  • have safe and working electrics, which a qualified electrician can help with if you are unsure;
  • be almost entirely free of damp or mould;
  • have doors and windows at entry level that lock properly;
  • be easy and safe to move around in, without excessively steep staircases that may cause harm.

Post-arrival

The council will have the right to make safeguarding checks on guests and inspect your accommodation. The council must make at least one in-person visit to you either before or shortly after the guest has arrived, to confirm that the accommodation is suitable and the guest is well and that there are no serious safeguarding or welfare concerns. The council will also undertake basic DBS checks on all adults in the sponsor household. In households where there are incoming arrivals who are children and/or vulnerable adults, an enhanced DBS check with barred lists check will be required for all adults in the sponsor household.

As well committing to provide suitable accommodation for a minimum of sixth months, as the sponsor, you will be required to stay in regular contact with your guest prior to their arrival to help organise and coordinate their arrival in the UK, meet them on arrival, and facilitate transfer to their accommodation. Guests arriving in the country will be eligible for a single onward journey via national rail, bus, light rail, and coach. This will be free of charge to anywhere in England, Scotland and Wales.

You will be expected to signpost your guest to public services (perhaps help them apply for Universal Credit) and assist them with tasks such as registering with a local GP surgery and setting up a bank account. The council is responsible for support guests to access local Jobcentre Plus appointments for benefit assessments and job-seeking, but you will likely have a part to play in this. You are not required to provide food for your guests, but you may wish to do so, particularly at the beginning of their stay.

Sponsors will receive an optional ‘thank you’ payment of £350/month per residence (regardless of the number of guests), administered by the council. This is not considered income, so will not affect income tax, council tax, mortgage payments, UC or other income thresholds. No payments will be made until the council has checked your property.

After six months

Sponsor and guest may choose to continue the hosting relationship beyond the initial six months. Sponsors should aim to give notice two months before the end of the 6 months (or with 2 months’ notice before any later date) if they do not want the sponsorship to continue.

Guests will have access to public funds and will be able to rent a property like anyone else. If they need to, they’ll be able to claim the housing part of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. The UK Government has useful information on renting property which is available in the How to Rent Guide.

Things to consider if you’re thinking about hosting somebody

  • Before deciding to host a refugee, consider your home situation and the community you are part of. What type of people would this suit? What speciality do the local support organisations around you have? Try to match your lives with those you are hosting — if you have young kids, consider supporting a family with young kids. If your children have left home, you might consider hosting a young adult.
  • It is important to place the refugee’s needs and agency at the centre. Think about what a refugee or a resettled family might need, rather than what you can offer. It is important that refugees feel supported but also have agency over their own lives and decisions; this is the key to successful resettlement in the long run!
  • Be gentle, patient and informed. Remember that many people may be traumatised by their experience and nervous upon arrival in the UK. Learn a little bit about the impact of trauma on individuals, and some relevant trauma-informed approaches. Put some of this into action while hosting.
  • Map the relevant local organisations and immigration advice providers you can draw on. Crucially, plan access to services (healthcare, education etc.) and language resources. This will make a huge difference in making refugees feel part of the wider community.
  • Don’t take pictures or post about your hosting experience on social media. Be respectful of the sensitive nature of this time and the reality in which many will have left loved ones behind. Even if you ask for permission to do this and gain it, step back and think about what purpose this really serves.

The government’s list of FAQs can be found here.

 

Information for Ukrainian Guests

 

Applications to the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ Scheme can be made via this link; full details of the sponsor(s) must be provided as part of this application. The online application form is also an application for a biometric immigration document. It is free to make an application, the immigration health surcharge, biometric enrolment fee and TB test do not apply. For Ukrainians who need assistance with the application process, there is a free 24/7 helpline +44 808 164 8810 (0808 164 8810 or +44 (0)175 390 7510 for those in the UK).

To apply to the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme you must be Ukrainian, or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national, who:

  • had been residing in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022 (including those who have now left Ukraine)
  • is currently outside the UK
  • has a UK-based sponsor who is eligible for the Homes for Ukraine Scheme

Ukrainians arriving in the UK under this scheme do not have to have family ties in the UK. Individuals arriving under this scheme will be allowed to stay in the UK for up to three years. They will be able to work and study in the UK, and will have access to benefits and local authority support. This may include:

  • Universal Credit – a payment for those of working age, to help with your living costs if you’re on a low income. You could be working (including self-employed or part time) or be out of work;
  • Pension Credit – extra money to help with your living costs if you’re over State Pension age which is 66 in the UK and on a low income;
  • Disability benefits – extra money to help with additional costs for those who have a long term physical or mental health condition or disability;
  • Carer’s Allowance – extra money if you care for someone at least 35 hours a week.
  • Child Benefit – extra money to help with the cost of raising a child.

The government will provide each local authority with £10,500 per resettled refugee to cover local services, such as education, healthcare and social services (with additional funds released for resettled children to attend school).

The local council will make one £200 initial payment to each guest for subsistence costs. Working age guests will be able to apply to receive Universal Credit and will be able to apply for advance payments where eligible. Pension-age guests will have access to State Pension Credit and Housing Benefit provided they meet eligibility criteria.

Instructions for Ukrainians with international passports

If the applicant holds a valid Ukrainian international passport or an expired Ukrainian international passport with a formal extension stamp issued by the Ukrainian government, the applicant will not need to attend an appointment at a visa application centre (VAC) to give their biometric information.

The applicant must upload a copy of their Ukrainian international passport. They must also provide documents that show the identity of the UK-based sponsor. This may include the sponsor’s passport, driving licence, national identity card or biometric residence permit. The applicant should also provide any documents that show they were residing in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022. The applicant should download the document uploading app (either TLS or VFS) in order to upload their documents.

Once the application has been processed, the applicant will receive an official permission letter from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) confirming that they can travel to the UK. The permission letter will allow the applicant to board a plane or other form of transport to the UK. Applicants should not travel to the UK until they have received an official permission letter.

On arrival in the UK, applicants should show their permission letter to UK Border Force officers, who will provide a 6-month entry stamp. The 6-month entry stamp is evidence of right to work, study and claim benefits in the UK.

Guests arriving in the country will be eligible for a single onward journey via national rail, bus, light rail, and coach. This will be free of charge to anywhere in England, Scotland and Wales. Eurostar is offering free travel to London from their European stations.

New arrivals must submit their biometrics within 6 months of arriving in the UK to extend their stay for up to 3 years and be issued with a biometric residence permit (BRP). The online form for arrivals to submit their biometric information is not yet available.

Instructions for Ukrainians without international passports

Applicants without valid Ukrainian international passports will need to book and attend an appointment at a visa application centre (VAC). This includes those with Ukrainian domestic passports or ID cards.

Applicants without passports must have their photograph and fingerprints taken at a VAC. Children under the age of 5 who do not hold a valid Ukrainian international passport will not have their fingerprints taken but will still need to book and attend a VAC appointment and have a digital photograph taken.

VACs in Ukraine are currently closed. There is a temporary VAC open in Rzeszow, Poland. Applicants must complete their online application and book an appointment before attending the Rzeszow VAC – walk-in appointments are no longer accepted. VACs are currently operating in European cities including Budapest, Chisinau, Warsaw, Bucharest and Paris.

There is currently no clear timeframe within which an applicant should expect a decision to be made on their application. Those who attend a VAC to give biometrics will be granted a visa if their application is accepted. It appears that those granted a visa prior to arrival in the UK will not need to give their biometrics again within six months of arriving

Bringing items into the UK

The government has released guidance on bringing personal items to the UK as a Ukrainian refugee. Arrivals will not have to stop at customs unless they arrive with a personal vehicle, a pet, prohibited or restricted goods or £10,000 or more in cash (or the equivalent in another currency) Those who arrive in personals vehicle will not need to register or tax their vehicle in the UK if they arrive as a refugee and the vehicle is registered and taxed in its home country and the vehicle is used in the UK for no more than 6 months. After six months, the vehicle must be registered and taxed.

Those who are planning on arriving with pets must call 03000 200 301 and press 2 to speak to an adviser, or email: pettravel@apha.gov.uk. Those who arrive with prohibited or restricted goods (including drugs, weapons, endangered animals, indecent or obscene materials) must speak with a customs officer on arrival. Those who arrive in the UK with £10,000 or more in cash (or the equivalent in other currencies), must tell a customs officer when they arrive. They do not need to do anything if they bring in cash under £10,000 (or equivalent).

Resources for Ukrainians

Sane Ukraine 

Daily online trauma and resilience support sessions for Ukrainians everywhere who need practical psychological and emotional support. Led by experts and translated into Ukrainian.

Sessions are held on zoom every day at 5:30pm UK time/7:30pm Ukrainian time led by experienced therapists and trauma coaches with Ukrainian translation. Sessions are 45 minutes long, except 60 minutes on Tuesdays.