Business immigration and employment lawyers are getting calls from UK employers wanting to know what they can do to help Ukraine nationals looking to find refuge, homes and work in the UK.
Whilst employers have contributed to charity and supported their employees in their efforts to raise cash, many businesses want to offer practical support in the form of sponsorship or jobs. Other businesses want to help the companies they contract with in the Ukraine to show solidarity and support.
One thing that business immigration and employment lawyers can guarantee at the moment is that the UK immigration rules on visas and entry clearance for Ukrainian nationals is fast changing. That's why it is best to get the legal advice before you commit, as there may be an easier or different way for your business to help.
The employer consortium
At present, Ukrainian nationals fleeing the war still need a visa to enter the UK using the Ukraine Family Scheme or the Homes for Ukraine scheme. However, many employers want something quicker, having been profoundly moved by the plight of those fleeing the war in Ukraine.
As reported in the BBC news, a consortium of employers has been set up to see how UK employers can offer assistance, whether that is an employer offering to sponsor a Ukrainian national under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme or having jobs on offer for Ukrainian nationals who enter the UK on the Ukraine Family Scheme.
At the moment it's a case of ‘watch this space’ as we don't know how sponsorship by organisations and employers will work under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
If a Ukrainian national enters the UK on the Ukraine Family Scheme or Homes for Ukraine scheme, the positive is that they have a right to work in the UK for the duration of their stay. This means they are not limited to securing employment with firms who hold a Home Office issued sponsor licence.
The Ukraine Family Scheme
This scheme allows Ukraine nationals and their immediate family members* to sponsor a Ukrainian national who was resident in Ukraine prior to the 1 January 2022. If leave is granted it lasts for three years with the right to work, study and access public services.
*(who have an immediate or extended family member who is a British national or person with settled status)
Homes for Ukraine scheme
This scheme, open to applications from the 18 March 2022, allows Ukrainians and their immediate family members to come to the UK if sponsored by a person or an organisation in the UK, but there does not have to be an existing relationship between applicant and sponsor.
Sponsors can be individuals, businesses and organisations, such as charities or community groups. However, there is a requirement that an individual sponsor provides suitable accommodation for at least six months. The accommodation does not have to be owned by the sponsor, for example, a sponsor could rent accommodation. Once the scheme rules are published the rules on employer sponsors providing accommodation may become clearer, as details of how sponsorship by employers will work in practice is still to be determined. In the meantime, many employers are looking to support their employees who are opening up their homes under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
If your business wants to register an interest as acting as a sponsor under the Homes for Ukraine scheme you can do so on the government website.
Employers with a Home Office issued sponsor licence can recruit Ukrainian nationals by allocating a certificate of sponsorship so they can apply for a skilled worker visa, but the vacancy has to be genuine and the applicant has to meet the skill and minimum salary threshold for the skilled worker visa. In addition, family members require a separate dependant visa to accompany the main work visa applicant, and as Ukraine is under martial law many male applicants aged 18 to 60 are unable to leave the country. At first glance, the work visa route only appears to benefit workers already known to a UK employer, for example, because there is a contractual relationship between UK and Ukraine businesses.
Businesses already employing Ukrainians in the UK
The Home Office has made it easier for sponsor licence holders to support existing employees who are Ukraine nationals working in the UK on skilled worker visas, intra company transfer visas or temporary visas by simplifying the rules for Ukraine nationals to switch visa if their visa is due to expire.