UK businesses looking to help people leaving Ukraine have immigration complexities to consider.
Employers should also appreciate the bigger picture if they’re to provide an appropriate package of relocation support.
There are in effect three routes open for Ukrainians to seek refuge here with the support of companies or individuals in the UK.
The Skilled Worker option enables employers already licenced by the Home Office to recruit someone from Ukraine for a specific vacancy – one which the applicant is fully qualified to fill. The process entails a government fee and carries visa stipulations in relation to salary level and English language capabilities, but it does potentially enable the applicant to apply for indefinite leave to remain beyond the initial five-year visa duration.
The Family Scheme requires a UK-based family member as a sponsor – there are a variety of scenarios which meet this definition – and offers a visa duration of three years in the first instance, although it’s not currently expected to lead to an indefinite leave to remain in the country.
Homes for Ukraine
Those same visa arrangements also apply to the now well-known Homes for Ukraine scheme, in which individuals, families or organisations can offer suitable accommodation for a minimum of 6 months. Like the Family Scheme, there’s no government fee and – from an employment perspective – in both cases those relocating from Ukraine are free to work here in any role.
Beyond these formalities, however, businesses that wish to help Ukrainians coming to the UK may wish to contemplate factors beyond immigration and work-related obligations if they’re to offer a comprehensive support package.
There will be complications involved in people leaving Ukraine and making their way to the UK, and their individual circumstances may require a similarly individual response. Some may not have a valid passport or might have left without other key documentation. Their accommodation, language skills, access to medical care, even securing a National Insurance number and opening a bank account may require support.
So too might issues such as childcare requirements and schooling. And professional support for their emotional wellbeing may also be a consideration.
The formal routes into living and working in the UK certainly require prospective employers to pay attention to detail.
However, the circumstances mean it’s not all about work-related issues, and the wider considerations shouldn’t be ignored.
It’s always worthwhile seeking professional guidance, especially in a situation as exceptional as this. Specialist knowledge can help businesses ensure they’re meeting their formal responsibilities – as they look to help people leaving Ukraine.
Natasha Catterson is a partner and solicitor with Fragomen, a leading firm dedicated exclusively to immigration services worldwide. Her clients include firms with offices based in Scotland. Fragomen has almost 5,000 immigration professionals and support staff in more than 50 offices across the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific. Fragomen offers immigration support in more than 170 countries.