Fleeing refugees who hold a passport will be able to complete a visa application to the UK’s Ukraine Family Scheme digitally, Priti Patel has confirmed.
Speaking in the Commons, the home secretary said that from Tuesday, those trying to get from Ukraine to the UK who hold a national passport will be able to complete the whole application process online – relieving pressure on visa processing centres.
The home office has been criticised for its lack of visa centres to help hundreds of Ukrainian refugees who may be eligible for the family scheme to get into the UK.
The Ukraine Family Scheme allows family members of people settled in the UK to join their relatives.
Changes to come in on Tuesday
“From Tuesday, I can announce that Ukrainians with passports will no longer need to go to a visa application centre to give their biometrics before they come to the UK,” Ms Patel told the Commons.
“Instead, once their application has been considered and appropriate checks completed, they will receive direct notification that they’re eligible for the scheme and can come to the UK.
“In short, Ukrainians with passports will be able to get permission to come here fully online from wherever they are and will be able to give their biometrics once in Britain.
“This will mean that visa application centres across Europe can focus their efforts on helping Ukrainians without passports.”
Ms Patel added that “vital security checks will continue in all cases”.
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PM under pressure over visa processing
Boris Johnson has come under pressure, including from Kyiv and his own Conservative MPs, to rapidly increase the rate of Ukrainians being welcomed into safety.
Despite more than 2.1 million people having fled Ukraine according to UN estimates, Sky News understands Britain has granted just over 1000 visas.
Earlier, Armed Forces minister Mr Heappey hinted to Sky News that Ms Patel could back down to relax visa requirements for those fleeing the invasion.
Ms Patel faced calls in the Commons from her own back benches to set up more processing centres in the UK specifically for elderly and vulnerable Ukrainians fleeing war.
Conservative former minister Harriett Baldwin said: “I want to make a further suggestion, a practical one I hope, that could alleviate the situation.
“The House of Commons library says that there are 35,000 Ukrainian citizens here in the UK. I know that they are sick to death of worrying for their elderly mothers, babies, grandchildren and so on.
“Would it not be possible for us to have a hub for them here in the UK where everything could be done from here and they could be given provisional visas to come into the country, and then we check the biometrics here?”
Ms Patel replied: “We are actually doing this across the country now.
Labour: Government response to Ukraine refugees ‘shameful’
Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees trying to get to the UK have turned up at Calais over the past few days but most have been told to go to Paris or Brussels.
It then emerged on Tuesday evening another centre would be based in Lille, more than 70 miles away from Calais.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the UK’s response to people fleeing Ukraine has been “shameful”.
and asked if the government would utilise the armed forces to set up emergency centres to help bring people to the UK.
“Why does it always take being hauled into the House of Commons to make basic changes to help vulnerable people who are fleeing from Ukraine?” she asked.
“Why still if we’ve still got to wait until Tuesday for this new system to come in, what is to happen for everybody else in the meantime? Why is she not bringing in the armed forces?”
Ms Patel reiterated that the home office is working hard to ensure Ukrainian refugees are able to come to the UK and that this remains her “priority”.