The following is taken from a press release from 3 March 2022
A leading immigration lawyer in the Midlands says further Government support may be needed to help businesses move staff more quickly away from conflict in Ukraine.
Matthew Davies, partner at law firm Wright Hassall, said businesses are already seeing ‘significant’ impacts of the war, with many looking to move staff based in Ukraine and Russia to the UK.
The UK Government announced on Tuesday it is extending its help to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion, while UK firms will also be able to sponsor a Ukrainian entering the country.
Davies, who is head of business immigration at Wright Hassall, based in Leamington Spa, said the UK might also have to make further concessions to allow businesses to move more quickly.
He said: “We are seeing significant impacts already and are expecting to see more.
“A number of our clients are internationally-based and have operations – and employees – in that part of the world and are looking to transfer people and roles elsewhere, including in the UK.
“For companies which have sponsor licences and want to temporarily bring a Ukrainian operation into the UK, they would use the usual Point Based System routes, with provision for entry clearance applications beyond Ukraine’s borders in neighbouring countries to ensure security checks. All visa application points in Ukraine are now closed and the UK will accept application by Ukrainian nationals from any safe country.
“If they do apply to bring people over, at the moment salary levels must still meet UK thresholds and occupational codes must meet the required skill level.
“There might be some temporary reduction in that in time – for instance exceptionally allowing those who are a code below the immigration threshold – but at the moment that is not the case. Nor is there any reduction in fees under this route.
“There will of course be an additional cost for businesses that choose to do this but that’s for them to evaluate and balance on a humanitarian level as well as a commercial one.
“It is an evolving situation, but the UK might have to make further concessions in terms of waiving visa fees to enable businesses to move quickly. It is a matter of time before the knock-on effect on already stretched Home Office resources creates backlogs elsewhere in the system as the number of applications from displaced Ukrainians grows”.
Davies advised some employees could be entitled to help via other temporary arrangements in place.
UK rules on who can arrive in the UK have changed recently to allow British nationals and Ukrainians settled in the UK to bring members of their extended family to the country. A temporary community sponsorship route is also being put in place for those not meeting the family criteria. There has been significant criticism of the slow practical implementation of both routes, from within the UK and beyond, as more than two million Ukrainians have already been displaced and yet only a few hundred have so far come to the UK. The Government has insisted on the paramount importance of thorough security checks which cannot be taken out of the process.
Businesses in the UK will also be supporting Ukrainian staff or staff impacted by the crisis, and those who want travel to Ukraine either for family reasons or to join the defence of their country.
Davies added: “People can return and employers can give people compassionate leave, unpaid leave or special leave if they need to go to Ukraine for family reasons, subject to a sensible policy.
“There is a separate question about how safe that is, of course – and remember that most Ukrainian males aged 18 – 60 are forbidden to leave Ukraine as all are on military call.
“It’s an evolving picture but undoubtedly will require good management to support employees who are emotionally and personally caught up in this awful situation.”