This is a short guide and resource list for newly matched hosts to help you prepare and plan for meeting your Ukrainian guests.
In agreeing to sponsor a Ukrainian family and to host for six months or more, you are helping to provide refuge to those fleeing war. You are also becoming part of something that will inform the character of the UK and its future relationship with Europe.
As of 24th May, despite the relatively complicated visa process compared to other countries, 135,600 Ukrainian visa applications had been received and 115,000 visas had been issued by the UK government.
The application process
Once the visa application has been submitted, the process will vary slightly depending on whether the applicants have an international passport or not. If they do have an international passport and have provided all the evidence required online, they will receive a Permission to Travel (PTT) letter by email as a PDF document. At border control they will need to show the PTT with their valid passport to enter the UK.
Those without an international passport will attend a biometrics appointment at a visa centre (such as in Warsaw) upon submission of their application. They will later need to return to the centre to collect their entry visa. Notifications will be sent to the email address provided in the application form.
In both cases, the process may take several weeks, although some visas have reportedly been issued in just a few days. While the government claims to process visas sequentially, there have been wide variations in approval time. Some of this may be down to local authorities and their attempts to contact you to arrange viewings and DBS checks. Many sponsors have also reported helpful responses from their local MPs in tracking and expediting applications.
Responsibilities as a host
Your responsibilities as a host, and details of the checks and £350 monthly payments, and other suggestions, are set out in the government’s sponsor guidance and FAQ below.
Besides for being a host, you are acting as a visa sponsor, which means that if you withdraw your ability to host prior to your guests travelling, they cannot enter the UK and (as of 30th May) must reapply with a new sponsor. We would therefore urge sponsors to notify applicants ASAP in the event of any change in circumstances. (Some questions to consider.) After your guests have arrived, the local authority will provide support in the event of any issues with hosting.
We strongly believe that the best thing for hosts and for guests is to feel closely connected to other hosts and Ukrainians in the local area, as well as relevant organisations and sources of support. A local hosting and support network will not only provide important sources of information but will also provide your household with emotional and practical support should any unforeseen circumstances arise. So please make enquiries and connect with others. We are all in this together!
Before your guests travel
The circumstances of Ukrainians waiting for visas vary widely. Some are staying with family or friends in Poland or continental Europe and have sufficient means and sources of support. Many others are staying in temporary camps and struggling daily and may need financial or other sources of help while waiting. Worries about making the journey to the UK, about finding work, and about loved ones still in Ukraine, are also likely to be on their minds.
To better understand their circumstances, you may consider asking where they are staying currently, and may start to think about travel options (which we may also support). Despite the promise of free flights from some airlines, in practice, this is not the case since they are at the very least all charging for luggage.
If you would like to contribute to the temporary living expenses and travelling costs of your guests, and feel able to, you may consider providing as a donation the equivalent of the first month’s payment of £350 offered to hosts by the government. If we have facilitated the match and are in contact with you and your guest(s) then you can make this contribution as a gift aid donation to IPC here.