Procedure once match made
Once visa forms have been completed and submitted to Home Office, HO then contacts Herefordshire council with your details together with your proposed guests details.
Herefordshire then contacts you re DBS check and home inspection.
DBS checks are done on line – one for each person living in your household. After completing the form online council need to check your IDs. We did this via a video call but you may be asked to go to Hereford for this. You will need your passports, one other form of photo ID (driving licence, bus pass) plus a utility bill with your name and address shown.
You will then also have to complete a housing check list.
NOTE – this is a changing situation and housing checks may be changed. I understand there should be a check before your guests arrive and another after they do. We only had one which was nearly two weeks after their arrival. You will not get your £350 a month until the housing check has been completed, and this is paid in arrears.
It is then a case of waiting – HO do not contact you or your guests with any update, no communication whatsoever from them. The help lines just recorded message.
I would advise you to keep in contact with your guests during this waiting time, have regular exchange of texts and/or video calls will be a reassurance to all concerned. Presently visas still taking three weeks or longer. We texted usually twice and week and also had video calls, also helps start build a relationship. The Ukrainianes will get their “permission to travel” letter via email. It is not unusual for one member of a family to get their letter and other members having to wait for several days longer.
I contacted and hassled Jesse Norman several times and found his assistant (Susie) very helpful – she actually sent someone from the office to the HO to find out where in the system the application was. The final time was when she emailed me to inform me their applications had been successful and she emailed me copies of their permission to travel letters. This proved very useful as our female guest received her letter at the same time I did but her husband did not get his until a few days later, but at least they knew they were coming and were able to plan how to get to us.
If the match has been made by the Diocese and Citizen UK, Citizen UK will help with their travel arrangements, I understand that they are chartering planes to fly refugees into the UK.
All train travel is free in Europe, including Eurostar who have a number of free places on each train.
Train travel (including London Underground) in this country is free for them for 48 hours from the time of arrival. Just have to show passports, although no one actually looked at their visas to see the time of entry into UK. www.nationalrail.co.uk
We went to London to meet our guests when they arrived on Eurostar but it is entirely up to you what arrangements you make for them to get to you. I do not know what the situation is when bringing family pets into the country.
Once your guests arrive
It is up to you and them what living arrangements you make ie. for food, meals, cleaning etc. What you think will work best for you and your guests.
Your guests will receive £200 each. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org once you have an arrival date for your guests and Herefordshire will email you a QR code which you take to the Post Office, along with passports, where this will be scanned and guests will be given £200 each.
REGISTERING WITH VARIOUS AGENCIES
www.gov.uk is the site with all the information
Job centre – apply online then they will get an email with an appointment firstly a phone call from the job centre and a face to face appointment in Ross. Problem with the forms – have to give details of bank account which they will most likely not have. I phoned the help line and was told to put in N/A in the name of the bank 00-00-00 in the bank code and 00000000 in the account number, this did not work so had to put my own bank account details in and this was accepted. Need to change when they have their face to face appointment. The guests get text messages telling them of the date and time of both the phone call and appointment.
Bank account – this will most likely vary from bank to bank but again take passports into chosen bank to start process. I understand that there are several online banks which are very easy to open accounts but the obvious draw back is no cash can be paid in.
NI number – Apply for a National Insurance number online. When ours did, the website said could take up to 6 weeks but actually came through in a week.
Doctor – can only speak for Alton Street, but they were very helpful. Register online but have to take passports in to confirm ID.
BRP (biometric residency permit) – This extends the visa to three years, form to be completed online and upload passport photo, make appointment at centre. Gloucester is nearest but have no available appointments well into June so ours have made appointments at Cardiff, even then it is the beginning of June.
NOTE – the permission to travel visa is only for 6 months and the BRP has to be applied for within the six months.
SIM cards – A one month free sim card can be obtained from the 3 phone shop in Hereford, next to WH Smiths by taking passports and permit to travel letter to the shop.
or Vodafone give a 6 month free sim card – apply via www.refugease.org . Vodafone send the sim cards out in batches once a month, there may also be a supply of these at the Help for Ukraine centre at 3 Elms Trading Estate, Hereford but check if they have any before travelling. Again you will need passport and permit to travel letter.
I hope some of you may find this information useful and not be put off by everything that has to be done, it is time consuming but necessary. Please do not let this put you off hosting refugees.