Almost 90,000 households across the UK have already offered to take in Ukrainian refugees fleeing war in their homeland – and that number is rising rapidly.
A new UK Government sponsorship scheme – Homes for Ukraine – went live on Monday afternoon.
It will allow individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people escaping the war to safety – even if they have no ties to the UK.
The Scottish Government is pushing to be a ‘super-sponsor’, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford putting forward a proposal to immediately welcome 3000 refugees.
But what is the actual process for those interested in sponsoring a family?
STV News breaks down everything you need to know about the scheme below.
How does the scheme work?
Anyone with a room or home available can offer it to a Ukrainian individual or a family. Everyone making an offer will be vetted and Ukrainian applicants will undergo security checks.
The scheme will initially “facilitate sponsorship between people with known connections” so it can be “up and running as soon as possible”, communities secretary Michael Gove told the House of Commons on Monday.
But he added that it will “rapidly” expand through the UK Government working with charities, faith and community groups.
Previously only Ukrainians with family members already settled in the UK could come.
How long can refugees stay with a family or individual?
Members of the public providing accommodation to Ukrainians must do so for at least six months.
Sponsored Ukrainians will be granted three years’ leave to remain in the UK, with entitlement to work and access public services.
Will sponsors receive financial compensation?
Yes, those offering a place to stay will receive an optional tax-free monthly payment of £350 which will not affect benefit entitlements or council tax status.
The “thank you” payment is limited to one payment per residential address and will be paid to sponsors for up to 12 months.
Hosts should not charge any rent.
Councils will also be entitled to more than £10,000 per Ukrainian refugee using the fresh route to the UK.
“Additional payments” will be available to support school-age children who need to be accommodated within the education system.
What security checks will be carried out?
Gove said the UK Government wants to “minimise bureaucracy and make the process as straightforward as possible, while also doing everything we can to ensure the safety of all involved”.
Sponsors and all adults in their households will need to submit to security checks and possibly also safeguarding checks.
The suitability of the accommodation may also be assessed by their local council.
Ukrainians will be subject to “standard” security checks, according to the website, with biometric checks made after they arrive in the UK to avoid delays.
Gove has said steps will be taken to ensure people who might be “intent on exploitation” are prevented from “abusing” the new scheme.
Do sponsors provide anything other than accommodation?
Sponsors are not expected to provide meals or cover the costs of food and living expenses for their guests, unless they wish to do so philanthropically.
The UK Government will provide information to sponsors so that they can point their guests to organisations who can help them access benefits, register with a GP and with school placements.
Who can be a host?
Sponsors can be of any nationality and any immigration status as long as they have permission to be in the UK for at least six months.
Anyone with a spare room, or separate self-contained accommodation that is unoccupied and available for at least six months can volunteer to help.
Who can be a guest?
The website says someone is eligible if they are a “Ukrainian national or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national, and were resident in Ukraine prior to 1 January 2022.”
The scheme is open for adults and children within family units.
How do you apply?
Anyone who already knows a Ukrainian they want to sponsor should get in touch with them and prepare to fill in a visa application. The visa application system will go live on Friday.
Those who do not know someone they want to host can now register their interest on the website homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk.
The UK Government will work with charities, faith groups and universities to match potential hosts with people from Ukraine.
More detailed guidance for sponsors will become available in the coming days, according to the website.
Anyone registering will receive updates on the security checks, information on the status of the arrangement and the role of the local council in providing wider support.
How many Ukrainians are expected to be helped through the scheme?
The UK Government is setting no limit, saying the UK will welcome as many Ukrainians as wish to come and for whom there are sponsors.
Members of the public are being urged to come forward and help if they can.
Gove told MPs on Monday he hopes the first Ukrainians to receive support under the project will arrive within a week.
What is the ‘super-sponsor’ proposal?
The Scottish Government wants to “maximise its contribution” to the scheme and is seeking more clarity on how it will work.
Sturgeon and Drakeford have written a joint letter to Gove and proposed that the Scottish and Welsh governments act as “super sponsors”.
Gove said “we are doing everything we can” to facilitate the request.
The First Minister said on Tuesday the UK Government’s scheme means it “may be some time before most of those offering help will be able to actually welcome someone from Ukraine”.
She added that the Scottish Government’s “super-sponsor” proposal is intended to “short-circuit this and allow Ukrainians to get here and be supported more quickly”.
Sturgeon wants to launch the Scottish Government’s initiative alongside the wider UK scheme.
Meanwhile, Neil Gray, the Scottish Government’s minister for refugees from Ukraine, renewed calls for the UK Government to waive all visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals, “and put people, not processes, first”.
He said there was concern that the sponsorship scheme would be slow and cumbersome and lack proper support and safeguarding.