A new streamlined approach for Ukrainians to come to the UK will be in operation from Tuesday, home secretary Priti Patel has told MPs.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford called the update a “long-overdue U-turn”.
More than two million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded, according to the UN Refugee Agency, with the UK Government facing pressure from its own party and others to speed up visa processing.
Just 957 visas have been issued so far.
Speaking at the House of Commons on Thursday, Patel said she had received assurances on security matters which enabled her to make changes to the Ukrainian family scheme.
It comes after Boris Johnson resisted calls from Kyiv and within his own party to drop visa requirements for those fleeing the violence, insisting the security checks were vital to prevent Vladimir Putin sending agents to the UK.
Patel said: “From Tuesday, I can announce that Ukrainians with passports will no longer need to go to a visa application centre to give their biometrics before they come to the UK.
“Instead, once their application has been considered and appropriate checks completed, they will receive direct notification that they’re eligible for the scheme and can come to the UK.
“In short, 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.”
Nicola Sturgeon said she would have to see the detail of the changes but said it appeared to be a “significant shift towards a position of sanctuary first, paperwork second”.
“The UK position until now has been deeply shameful. That said, if it still requires visa applications to be made before travel to UK, it does not yet go far enough,” she said.
SNP Westminster leader Blackford also welcomed the change.
“This is a victory for all those campaigners who have forced the UK government into a U-turn – and I hope we can now ensure that people fleeing war will get the welcome they deserve,” he said.
“Given that Ukrainian refugees will be able to enter the UK from any port or airport, including in Scotland, it’s essential that the UK government works closely with the Scottish Government and devolved governments to ensure a successful approach.”
Other Russian oligarchs have been sanctioned alongside the owner of Chelsea FC Roman Abramovich, including Oleg Deripaska – an industrialist worth £2bn who has had close links with the British political establishment.
The list includes:
- Roman Abramovich: owner of Chelsea FC and has stakes in steel giant Evraz and Norilsk Nickel
- Oleg Deripaska: has stakes in En+ Group
- Igor Sechin: chief executive of Rosneft
- Andrey Kostin: chairman of VTB bank
- Alexei Miller: CEO of energy company Gazprom
- Nikolai Tokarev: president of the Russia state-owned pipeline company Transnef
- Dmitri Lebedev: chairman of the Board of Directors of Bank Rossiya