Q&A: A guide for Ukrainian refugees and their British hosts


As Ukrainian refugees begin to arrive in the UK, Financial Times reporters and editors have created a guide to help potential hosts and their refugee guests navigate the complexities of moving to Britain and settling in. Published as part of the FT’s Financial Education and Inclusion CampaignThis Q&A session will be updated as time goes on. Accommodation for Ukraine system changes or new issues arise.

Is there a fixed period for Ukrainians to stay as guests in UK homes and if so what happens when that ends?
Host families are encouraged to provide accommodation for their Ukrainian guests for at least six months. After that, new arrivals will have to find a new host or accommodation unless hosts extend their hospitality. Once a host registers their interest on the government website, they share their offer on websites run by charities such as Oporawhere refugees also seek accommodation.

What expenses are hosts expected to cover when providing lodging for guests?
Hosts are only expected to provide accommodation for their Ukrainian guests, not to cover food and living expenses – although some may wish to provide this. Hosts cannot charge guests for rent or fees incurred, but they can ask what the UK government guide described as “a reasonable contribution to routine household bills such as food and utilities”. Guests who feel they are being asked to contribute an unreasonable amount should inform the local council, which also inspects guest houses before refugees arrive.

Each guest will be entitled to an initial payment of £200 from the local council to help cover settling-in costs and meet their immediate needs. Hosts are entitled to an optional payment of £350 per month for up to a year, although they are free to refuse the money if they don’t need it.

What do refugees need to open a bank account?
Banks usually ask applicants for an address, which may be that of the host; a Ukrainian passport or a national identity card; and documents showing the person’s immigration status, such as a biometric residence permit (BRP), which refugees with visas can collect upon arrival. This serves as proof of their right to work and rent property.

Although customers can apply for a bank account online, most lenders suggest going to a branch if necessary with a host, especially when documentation is not available.

Fintechs including Revolut and Monzo offer no-visit accounts and require a phone number, physical address and passport or Ukrainian ID.

Once an account is opened, money can be transferred from a Ukrainian bank as needed.

How do refugees get a new phone contract when they arrive in the UK?
At press time, Vodafone and Three had offered free Sim cards to refugees arriving in the UK while other operators were not charging existing customers for calls and texts between Ukraine and the UK. . If someone from Ukraine was applying for a contract with a UK supplier, they would need to pass a credit check and have a credit or debit card on file at the address they are applying from, proof of identity and proof of address.

The easiest option, regardless of provider, would be a paid SIM card that can be canceled at any time.

How much does it cost to live in the UK?
Last year the average UK household lived on £2,616 per monthincluding spending on average £750 per month on a two bedroom house. Rents are double in London.

How do refugees access social benefits and health care?
Details on how to apply for financial support can be found on page 12 of the UK Government Welcome Guide. To get payouts, you’ll usually need bank account or credit union details; an email address; and proof of identity.

Health care is free for Ukrainian refugees. The British government recommends register with a general practitioner (GP) — a local doctor — upon arrival.

Refugees will initially not be eligible for housing assistance. But if a guest wishes to leave a host family and rent privately, or at the end of their sponsorship, refugees will be able to rent a property like anyone else and apply for housing benefit if needed.

Do hosts benefit from a reduction on council tax for hosting a refugee?
Empty or secondary residences will be entitled to retain a 50% reduction on the housing tax if they are used to house Ukrainian refugees.

And if the relationship between refugee and the host goes down?
If the host and guest can no longer live under the same roof, the Upgrading Department says it will “seek to find another sponsor through rematching.”

“If another suitable sponsor cannot be found, the Ukrainian family will be entitled to housing assistance [from the local council],” it says.

How quickly can clients get work in the UK? Can a host host someone on the basis that he or she will work for them by agreement – such as, for example, a nanny, housekeeper, or at an on-site farm shop?
Ukrainian guests have the immediate right to work wherever they want. This may also include working for a host, but under the usual rules of employment, including respecting minimum wagewhich ranges from £9.50 an hour for over-23s to £4.81 for apprentices.

Employers should check that refugees are allowed to work in the UK before hiring them. The biometric residence card (BRP), which refugees with a visa can obtain upon arrival, serves as proof of their right to work.

Organizations including Employ Ukraine connect Ukrainians with employers before they arrive in the UK. Refugees can also take steps to establish themselves as self-employed while receiving state benefits. Details are given in a government guide.

Will customers who are able to continue their old jobs by working from home be eligible for additional support to reflect the higher cost of living in the UK?
There is no specific public support available, but benefits such as Universal Credit are available for people of working age on low incomes, whether self-employed, part-time or full-time. Universal Credit Payments are reduced at a steady rate once you earn more than £344 per month if you are also receiving housing cost support, or £573 if not.

What arrangements are made for refugees to return to the UK if they briefly leave the country during the stay with the host?
Ukrainians benefiting from the Homes for Ukraine program can temporarily leave and return to the UK. However, the government advises against doing so until a BRP has been issued and collected.

How can refugees verify that their sponsor is registered with the government? And how can a refugee protect himself against traffickers and other criminals if he finds sponsors through social networks?
Before granting a visa, sponsors and guests must undergo security checks. Getting a visa from outside the UK is much easier with a sponsor already lined up in the UK, pushing for clearance for potential guests. The British Red Cross has published to guide in English, Ukrainian and Russian to help refugees stay safe, as well as other helpful tips.

Can refugees use their Ukrainian driving license to drive or rent vehicles in the UK?
Yes. Some car rental companies may require Ukrainians to produce an International Driving Permit or a translated version of their license.

Ukrainians can drive in the UK for 12 months before having to exchange their Ukrainian license for a British licence.

Do hosts have to tell their home insurer if they are hosting refugees?
the Association of British Insurers says hosts don’t need to tell their insurer if they “want to temporarily house refugees who have been displaced from the conflict in Ukraine as non-paying guests”. But once a full 12 months have passed and the policy expires, they must notify an insurer if the refugees are still there.

What should refugees do to bring their pets to the UK?
A pet dog or cat must be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. Owners must wait 30 days for a blood test to show that the animal has developed antibodies against rabies. This must be added to the pet’s passport and owners must visit a registered vet in the EU and apply for a certificate approving travel to the UK.

If these requirements are not met, refugees will have to place their pet in quarantine for four months and the UK government will cover the costs. Owners may be able to get their pet back before four months if they are deemed healthy before that date. To make the necessary quarantine arrangements, email the Animal and Plant Health Agency at [email protected] or call +44 3000 200 301 and select option 2.

What gifts should I bring to my host?
It’s a question that comes up frequently in social media conversations among Ukrainians fleeing a country that prides itself on its hospitality. The answer is nothing, but some Ukrainians awaiting visas have already started planning the basket of treats they will present to their hosts. Meanwhile, some British hosts are discussing what to put in welcome baskets for their Ukrainian guests.

Reporting by Robert Wright, Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan, Delphine Strauss, Anna Gross, Federica Cocco, Ian Smith, Ana Kozlova, Leyla Boulton


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