Sir Oliver Heald admits five-week visa delays for Ukrainian refugees

Whitney Jones

Whitney Jones | 11 May 2022, 11:29

The Conservative MP for North East Hertfordshire has admitted that there have been delays of up to five weeks in visas being approved for Ukrainian refugees.

Sir Oliver Heald says he “understands people’s frustration” with the significant delays but still views the Homes for Ukraine scheme as successful.

He said: “We have to be careful to ensure we do know who is coming here and that where they are going to is a secure place, because we are dealing with vulnerable people.” 

According to Sir Oliver, some cases are more complicated than others, which may also be adding to the delays, too.

The government website states that for UK residents to be hosts, they must register under the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme, which requires them to have a named person before applying for their visa.

Once the visa has been greenlit, refugees should receive a ‘permission to travel’ letter, but the government has admitted to that poor communication causing further delays.

The North Herts MP has been helping hosts offering their homes to refugees across his constituency, to help move their cases along. 

A Letchworth woman reached out to the Tory Minister for help after the visa delay left her feeling “powerless”. 

The woman, who has asked to remain anonymous to protect the refugees she’s hosting, told the Comet that she offered to sponsor a mother and a daughter, aged 12, but the application took over a month to be greenlit.  

She said: “The whole process is opaque, inconsistent and inhumane.”

The woman added: “A visa being issued does not mean that a permission to travel letter has. They’re not getting people their documents quick enough.”

After contacting Sir Oliver Heald, the daughter’s visa came through within a few hours. However, they had to wait another week for the mother’s to be approved, leaving the sponsored family “anxious”. 

The latest figures show that as of May 5, the Home Office have issued 95,500 visas, of which 59,100 are under the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme. 

Furthermore, as of May 3, there have been 19,500 refugee arrivals via the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme.

Have you volunteered to be a part of the Homes For Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme? To share your experience, email whitney.jones@archant.co.uk