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Ukrainians offered 18-month visa extension to stay in UK | UK News

Ukrainians who sought sanctuary in the UK after Russia’s invasion will be granted an 18-month visa under a new extension scheme.

The first visas which granted people three years’ leave in the UK under programmes such as Homes for Ukraine, the Ukraine Family Scheme and the Ukraine Extension Scheme are set to expire in March 2025.

But the Home Office has said individuals under one of the visa schemes will now be able to apply to stay until September 2026 and have the same rights to access work, benefits, healthcare, and education.

Russia-Ukraine latest: Follow live updates

“This new visa extension scheme provides certainty and reassurance for Ukrainians in the UK on their future as this war continues, and we will continue to provide a safe haven for those fleeing the conflict,” Tom Pursglove, border minister, said.

“Families across the country have opened their homes and their hearts to the people of Ukraine, showing extraordinary generosity, including offering shelter to those fleeing from the horrors of war.”

A 'refugees welcome' banner attached to a bicycle by a small flotilla of boats leaving Bristol harbour in support of Ukrainian refugees during a day of national action showing support for refugees. Picture date: Monday March 21, 2022.
Image:
A ‘refugees welcome’ banner attached to a bicycle in Bristol. Pic: PA

More than 283,000 Ukrainians have been offered or extended sanctuary since the beginning of the invasion on 24 February 2022.

Within months of the beginning of the conflict, many British people offered to open up their homes to refugees who were fleeing the conflict.

For those that successfully registered to become a sponsor and were matched with a Ukrainian guest or family, they receive £350 a month for the first year their guests are in the UK and £500 for the second year.

Housing and Communities minister Felicity Buchan said she wanted to pay tribute to those sponsors across the country who have shown “extraordinary generosity”, but added more will need to come forward.

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“The government continues to provide them with ‘thank-you’ payments in recognition of their support,” she said.

“As more families arrive, we will need more sponsors to come forward. I encourage anyone interested in hosting to check their eligibility and apply as soon as they can.”

The UK also has an £11.8bn package of military, humanitarian and economic support for Ukraine in place.

Those who are in the UK under the Homes for Ukraine, the Ukraine Family Scheme, the Ukraine Extension Scheme and Leave Outside the Rules will be eligible to apply for the extension within the last three months of an existing visa.

Shoaib Bashir back in England after Indian visa issue leaving Ben Stokes ‘frustrated’ | UK News

England spinner Shoaib Bashir has been forced to fly home to resolve Indian visa complications – an issue Ben Stokes has described as “frustrating”.

Bashir, a 20-year-old British Muslim of Pakistani heritage, was the only member of the touring party to have a significant delay over his application and was forced to stay in Abu Dhabi after a training camp.

The England and Wales Cricket Board had hoped the matter could be resolved in the United Arab Emirates – where its managing director of operations Stuart Hooper remained with Bashir.

The ECB asked for help from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and it is understood Bashir was told to return to London to receive the correct approval at the Indian embassy.

Although Bashir had been unlikely to feature in Thursday’s first Test, he has formally been taken out of contention for a debut due to the setback.

Captain Stokes said: “I didn’t want this type of situation to be his first experience of what it’s like to be in the England Test team.

England's captain Ben Stokes (Pic: AP)
Image:
England’s captain Ben Stokes (Pic: AP)

“Especially for a young lad, I’m devastated for him.

“As captain I find it particularly frustrating. We announced the squad in mid-December and now Bash finds himself without a visa to get here.

“He’s not the first cricketer to go through this. I have played with a lot of people who have had the same issues.

“I find it frustrating that we have picked a player and he’s not with us because of visa issues.”

The Somerset prospect is the latest cricketer of Pakistani descent to face difficulty getting into India, with Usman Khawaja belatedly joining Australia’s tour of the country last year and Lancashire’s Saqib Mahmood withdrawn from an England Lions trip after similar problems back in 2019.

The Pakistan Cricket Board, meanwhile, wrote to the International Cricket Council ahead of the recent World Cup to complain about hold-ups in its squad’s visas for the tournament in India.

Some of the country’s media representatives also had trouble.

Home Office rows back on plans to hike family visa salary threshold to £38,700 | Politics News

The Home Office has rowed back on plans to increase the salary threshold for family members of migrants in the UK following a backlash.

Home Secretary James Cleverly told the Commons earlier this month that the threshold for a family visa would rise from £18,600 to £38,700 by “next spring” in a bid to reduce the number of people coming to the UK.

But documents released by the Home Office suggest that the threshold will now only increase to an initially lower figure of £29,000, while no timeline is set out for when the higher threshold of £38,700 will be introduced.

Mr Cleverly unveiled the salary change as part of a five-point plan to reduce legal migration after net migration hit 745,000 last year.

Other measures announced in the plan included a ban on care workers bringing over their families and raising the minimum salary for a skilled worker visa from £26,200 to £38,700.

The backtrack was confirmed by Lord Sharpe of Epsom in an answer to a written parliamentary question.

Lord Sharpe highlighted how 75% of the UK population currently meets the minimum income requirement level of £18,600, but that only 30% would meet the proposed salary threshold of £38,700 based on earnings alone.

He said the minimum income requirement would be increased in “incremental stages to give predictability”.

“In spring 2024, we will raise the threshold to £29,000, that is the 25th percentile of earnings for jobs which are eligible for skilled worker visas, moving to the 40th percentile [currently £34,500] and finally the 50th percentile [currently £38,700 and the level at which the general skilled worker threshold is set] in the final stage of implementation,” he wrote.

No date for when the threshold would rise beyond £29,000 was given in Lord Sharpe’s answer.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said in response: “You have to wonder who is in charge at the Home Office, or if anyone is.

“It was clear to everyone else that the raising of the earnings threshold was unworkable.

“This was yet another half thought through idea to placate the hardliners on their own back benches.

“James Cleverly needs to put down the spade and stop digging. Decisions like this should be made by experts and politicians working together.

“He should also publish the advice from the Treasury and OBR [Office for Budget Responsibility] about the impact that his package of changes will have on the economy.”

Sky News has contacted the Home Office for comment.

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