Home Office shuts Ukraine Family Scheme without notice – Free Movement

As trailed previously, a statement of changes has been published today removing the rights of care workers to bring dependants to the UK. What was not mentioned in advance was that this statement of changes would also close the Ukraine Family Scheme with immediate effect (from 3pm 19 February 2024), as well as making other unfavourable changes for the other Ukraine schemes.

Care workers

These changes come into force from 11 March and applications made before then will be decided in accordance with the rules in force on 10 March. The affected occupation codes are 6145 care workers and home carers and 6146 senior care workers.

A new requirement has been added for a sponsor to be registered with the Care Quality Commission and carrying on regulated activity in order to be able to sponsor care workers. The Care Quality Commission requirement does not apply where a person is applying to extend their leave with the same employer.

The relationship requirement for a dependent partner of a skilled worker is being amended to say that the skilled worker must not have or be applying for a care worker role. Child dependants are similarly excluded. Exceptions are provided for those who were granted entry clearance or permission to stay under the rules in force before 11 March 2024 and who have held permission as a skilled worker in either or both of the relevant occupation codes continuously since then.


The explanatory memorandum says that the immediate closure of the Ukraine Family Scheme was to “prevent a rush of applications to pre-empt the changes to the rules which have, in part, been made to mitigate risks of misuse of the generosity of the schemes”. By way of a reminder, the Ukraine Family Scheme is the one that allows people in the UK to bring Ukrainian family members to safety here. The most recently published quarterly statistics (table UVS_02) show that in September 2023 the UK was granting around 100 visas a week to people under this scheme.

Over the weekend, various papers reported on the 18 months’ extension of leave that Ukrainians will be able to apply for next year, (described in this Economic Note as the “Ukraine Permission Extension” scheme). The Minister’s written statement also focusses on this and it is clearly where the government would like attention to be, rather than on the immediate closure of the Ukraine Family Scheme.

Given that the Ukraine Extension Scheme is also due to close to new applications after 16 May 2024, the only scheme that will still be open to new applications for those fleeing Ukraine after that will be the Homes for Ukraine Scheme (this was described by the Minister as “rationalising the offer for Ukrainians”).

The Homes for Ukraine Scheme is not left unscathed though, as successful applicants applying from 11 March 2024 be granted 18 months rather than three years leave. At the end of that 18 months they will need to make another application under the new Ukraine Permission Extension scheme. Further, the Minister said that sponsor eligibility was going to be restricted through changes to the guidance meaning that only those who are British or Irish citizens or who are settled here will be eligible to sponsor people under this scheme.

There has also been an expansion of the grounds on which applications made under the Ukraine schemes can be rejected. The general grounds for refusal set out in part 9 of the immigration rules apply only in part to Appendix Ukraine Scheme, those are currently paragraphs 9.2.1 to 9.7.3, 9.10.1 to 9.10.2, 9.14.1 to 9.20.2, 9.23.1 and 9.24.1. Effective 3pm today that is being expanded to include 9.8.1 to 9.8.8 (previous breach of immigration laws) and 9.9.1 to 9.9.2 (failure to provide required information, etc).

A small but useful change being made to the rules is that applications to the Ukraine Extension Scheme can be made after 16 May 2024 where the application is being made by a child born in the UK to parents who have permission under Appendix Ukraine Scheme. Such a child will be granted leave in line with their parent(s).


Given how much of the rest of this statement of changes was briefed in advance and the unsubstantiated comments about the “risks of misuse”, the closure of the Ukraine Family Scheme without any advance warning feels very grubby and contrary to the generous and inclusive intention of the scheme when opened.

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