Fleeing war: What Ukrainians need to do for a UK visa

A refugee fleeing the conflict from neighbouring Ukraine cries as she holds her one-year-old son, Andrey, at the Romanian-Ukrainian border, in Siret, Romania Credit: AP

More than two million people who have been forced to flee Ukraine are relying on other countries to provide refuge, but the UK government has granted just over 1,000 visas.

In the two weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, Europe has waived visa requirements and welcomed refugees from besieged and bombarded cities in Ukraine - putting Tory ministers under increasing pressure to speed up the process to get those in need into the UK.

  • What is the process for Ukrainians coming to the UK?

Ukrainians seeking safety in the UK are required to have qualifying family already in the country, several official forms, ongoing internet access and the ability to translate Ukrainian to English.

What the UK is asking Ukrainians for:

  • A Home Office account to complete an application form

  • Proof their family member in the UK has permanent residence status

  • Documents showing they had been living in Ukraine before January 1, 2022

  • Identity documents to prove they are related to the family member, or an explanation of 'why you are unable to do so'

  • Translation of all required documents into English before they are uploaded

  • Book and attend an appointment at a Home Office visa application centre in a neighbouring country to provide biometrics – fingerprints and a facial scan

  • Wait for UK officials to be in touch while a decision is made

The Office for National Statistics estimates between 25,000 to 40,000 Ukrainians live in the UK and 22,000 visa applications have been received by the government.

Following widespread criticism of the process, Home Secretary Priti Patel announced on Thursday that one of the requirements will be dropped and Ukrainian refugees with family in the UK will no longer need to physically attend visa centres before entering Britain. That change won't be put in place until Tuesday March 15 and all other requirements will remain.

Another promised route, allowing individuals and companies to sponsor Ukrainians to come to the UK, was announced on March 1 but has yet to be established.

Information about the scheme on the visa application section of the Home Office website links to a news release, which says further details "will be published soon".

The government says around 200,000 Ukrainian refugees could eventually reach the UK.

Why has there been so much criticism of the UK's policy on Ukrainian migrants?

With Russian bombs attacking cities, hospitals and killing hundreds of civilians, many of those leaving the country have fled on foot with few belongings and many are elderly, or mothers escaping with their children.

Despite the urgency of the situation and more than 22,000 applications to enter the country, the British government has processed only 1,000 visas.

  • UK visa centre staff: 'There has been a lot of confusion' - tap below to watch Rebecca Barry's report from Rzeszow in Poland

What issues are people having?

The process requires Ukrainians to have family here who are either a British national, have leave to remain in the UK, pre-settled status or proof of permanent residence, or someone with refugee status or humanitarian protection. Ukrainians must go through a lengthy application process involving official papers to prove their link to the UK.

For hundreds who made it from Ukraine to Calais this week, their 2,000-mile journey ended in frustration when UK Border officials refused to let them join their families in the UK.

Many were told they would have to travel again, to visa application centres in Brussels and Paris, and they would have to make appointments because the centres didn't take walk-ins.

The UK government announced it was setting up a visa centre in Lille, rather than Calais, citing "the wider issue of people traffickers and criminal gangs in Calais".

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government didn't want to attract Ukrainian refugees to the port city "without having the paperwork resolved."

A refugee fleeing the conflict from neighbouring Ukraine holds a child, at the Romanian-Ukrainian border, in Siret, Romania Credit: AP
  • What are other European countries doing?

Europe has opened its doors to Ukrainians fleeing the atrocities. The EU has waived its usual visa processes for migrants in favour of a temporary protection order granting them them the right to live and work in European countries for up to three years.


Poland has accepted more than one million people from Ukraine, with plans for a £1.34bn fund to provide a one-off payment of £50 for each refugee and help for Polish nationals who host Ukrainians.


More than 190,000 Ukrainians have been accepted into Hungary, in a stark U-turn on the country's anti-migration policy.


Bordering Romania has taken in the third largest number of people from Ukraine, with more than 143,000 refugees. Foreign minister Bogdan Aurescu said Romania is "open … to all those in need" and said they will be given "whatever is needed for them to feel safe".

Slovakia and the Czech Republic have taken in more than 240,000 Ukrainians between them while Moldova has welcomed more than 80,000 despite being one of the poorest countries in Europe.

Germany has reportedly accepted more than 60,000 Ukrainians, while France has taken in 5,000, with preparations in place for a further 5,000. Ireland, which lifted visa restrictions the day after Russia attacked Ukraine, has taken in 2,500 Ukrainians - around a third of them children.