The United Kingdom is temporarily relaxing visa requirements for relatives of British citizens departing Ukraine, as the government continues to push them to flee the country due to fears of a Russian invasion.
Immediate relatives of British nationals applying for a visa under the UKs family migration route will not be charged an application fee and will not be required to meet the schemes minimum income and English-language proficiency standards. Spouses, civil or unmarried partners, and children under the age of 18 whose parent is not British are all eligible for the exemption.
According to a U.K. official, Home Secretary Priti Patel took the decision late last week after the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advised against all travel to Ukraine and urged British nationals to leave the country as soon as possible amid fears of a Russian invasion. The Kremlin has denied that an invasion is planned.
The Home Office is also giving priority to passport applications submitted by British citizens in Ukraine, and officials are contacting persons who are eligible for visas to expedite their cases.
Up to 5,000 British citizens are thought to be living in Ukraine, many of whom have businesses or families and are more inclined to depart at the last minute.
Even though an assault has not yet occurred, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace warned Wednesday that dual nationals and British citizens in Ukraine should continue to heed the FCDO advise. Wallace is in Brussels for a conference of NATO defence ministers.
The British ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons, stays in Kyiv with a small team of diplomats, while some of the embassys responsibilities have been shifted to Lviv, in western Ukraine, as a precaution. In both places, British nationals and their families can seek consular assistance.
British officials have stepped up their requests for British citizens to evacuate the country, citing intelligence indicating that Russia has continuing to build up its forces and field hospitals around Ukraine “at a rapid pace,” according to Western diplomats.
Officials are getting roughly 350 applications for various U.K. visa programmes every day, the most of which are from Ukrainians, as well as around 100 calls to a special helpline.