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British nationals fear permanent separation from Ukrainian family | Ukraine

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British nationals in Ukraine have expressed fear of being permanently separated from their Ukrainian families if they leave the country and return to the UK, while others have spoken of the difficulty of obtaining a visa.

Mike Haley, 61, an English teacher and translator who has lived in Kyiv since 2005, said he would stay in the capital with his wife, Ala, regardless of government advice that all British nationals should leave .

“I wouldn’t leave my wife,” Haley said. “I just don’t trust this government to behave normally – I don’t believe we would be together if I left. Seems like the whole system is rigged against people like us. If I go, I don’t know what I’ll get myself into, so I’d rather just sit still.

Haley said he, his wife and his 80-year-old mother-in-law have no plans to leave their home.

“We have supplies, fill the bathtub in case of fire, tape the windows, have clean water in containers and non-perishable food. We were here during the Maidan revolution. We are ready for what is to come.

Michael Bosher with his wife Yulia.  The couple traveled to the <a class=UK overland after Yulia obtained a one-year visa.” src=”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/406d4a93d4ee0e563a314310b5dcfae3d4fa5ac1/425_324_653_392/master/653.jpg?width=445&quality=45&auto=format&fit=max&dpr=2&s=b0e9e21fc6bc0d8fa31e4842ae4bab82″ height=”392″ width=”653″ loading=”lazy” class=”dcr-1989ovb”/>
Michael Bosher with his wife Yulia. The couple traveled to the UK overland after Yulia obtained a one-year visa. Photography: handout

Michael Bosher, an English teacher, returned to the UK on Thursday after traveling overland for two days with his Ukrainian wife, Yulia, after being granted a one-year emergency visa on Tuesday.

“I said I couldn’t leave without her, so we stayed until the last minute. As soon as the visa arrived, we left,” Bosher said. “We had it in no time. If he hadn’t arrived when he arrived, we would have been really stuck.

“I would have expected more from the government,” he added. “We knew war was coming – it shouldn’t have been so hard to get out.”

Bosher said he will now get a manual job in the UK to ensure he meets the £18,600 minimum income requirement for his wife to stay.

On February 17, the Home Office announced new immigration concessions for family members of British nationals, temporarily waiving application fees for those eligible for the family migration route and granting entry for 12 months to those who do not meet the criteria. The department said decisions on family visas would be made within 24 hours of the applicant attending a biometric appointment.

On Thursday, the Home Office announced new visa changes for Ukrainians in the UK on work, study or visit visas, temporarily extending their visas and allowing eligible people to switch to different pathways of Visa.

Jeremy Myers plans to stay in Poland with his partner, Maria Romanenko, pending a decision on his UK visa application. Photography: handout

For unmarried couples, the situation is more complex. Jeremy Myers, 44, and his partner, Maria Romanenko, 29, applied for visitor visas a few weeks ago. They are not married, so they are not eligible for a family visa.

“We haven’t lived together for two years and I don’t live in Ukraine full time, so it’s very different for us,” Myers said. “Maria was charged £45 – a 50% bonus – for not surrendering her passport, just before the country went to war. This was considered a “special offer” due to the hard times.

“The other thing is that the visa might be denied, although I’ve always had a visa for over 15 years, it’s not guaranteed even now.”

The couple planned to leave Kyiv on Friday travel to Poland, where they would await the decision on Maria’s visa application.

Marta Mulyak said her mother did not come to her visa appointment in Kyiv due to the risk posed by Russian shelling.
Marta Mulyak said her mother did not come to her visa appointment in Kyiv due to the risk posed by Russian shelling. Photography: handout

Marta Mulyak, head of the London branch of the National Scout Organization Plast of Ukraine, also expressed frustration with the UK visa application process, which she said had left her mother in limbo.

Mulyak, 39, said: “Although the UK government said last week that Ukrainians can apply for visas at different centers in Ukraine, after paying £1,500 you only have the option of booking the appointment. Do you have biometrics, where they scan iris and fingerprints, in Kyiv. Going to Kyiv, even on Monday, was risky. Some people I know went just for work and now they can’t leave because there are bombings.

“So my mother’s visa application ran out of time. And the application is damn long. My mom had to provide her travel history for 10 years. It was a real nightmare. I called the helpline today, yesterday and the day before yesterday, but they did not answer.

Olesya Khromeychuk said the UK should open its borders to Ukrainian refugees.
Olesya Khromeychuk said the UK should open its borders to Ukrainian refugees. Photography: handout

Olesya Khromeychuk, director of the Ukrainian Institute’s cultural center in London, called on the British government to open its borders to those fleeing the Russian invasion.

“There will be refugees. We must open our borders. It is our duty here. It is a humanitarian crisis.

If that was not an option, then ministers would have to revisit the “humiliating, time-consuming and extremely expensive application process”, she added, to signal that Ukrainians are welcome.