Politics

Priti Patel U-turn means Ukrainian refugees can apply for visas online

The change won't come into effect until Tuesday, however.

priti patel, ukraine

Patel's handling of the refugee crisis has been sharply criticised. Image: Parliament.tv

Ukrainian refugees will be able to apply for UK visas entirely online, as long as they have a passport, after a U-turn from Priti Patel

From Tuesday, Ukrainians applying to join their family members will no longer need to attend in-person appointments at Visa Application Centres (VACs) to complete security checks.

The VACs have been a source of frustration for families trying to reunite, with a pop-up centre in Rzeszow, Poland, turning many away due to a lack of staff, and a planned centre in Lille coming under fire for its distance from Calais.

Patel told the Commons on Thursday: “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.”

Those seeking UK visas under the Ukraine Family Scheme must currently book an appointment at one of a handful of centres in Europe, after Patel said security fears meant visa requirements could not be waived.

Patel also said the need for paperwork and security checks was highlighted by “something known as the Windrush scandal” – claiming the lesson from the scandal was that individuals needed physical and digital records of their right to be in the UK.

The speed of the change was criticised by Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, who welcomed the update.

Cooper said: “Why have we still got to wait until Tuesday for this new system to come in, what is to happen for everybody else in the meantime?”

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