Pre-Arrival information for hosts

1. Committing to Hosting

Welcome to everyone thinking about, or preparing to host, Ukrainian refugees. You are doing something incredibly important in the face of such appalling circumstances, very worthwhile and potentially very rewarding. However, it is a substantial commitment, and not every placement we are aware of has worked out well, so we are starting this document with some simple thoughts about what you are planning to do. It is better to drop out now than to find that, within weeks, you have bitten off more than you can chew.

  • You are inviting someone unknown to you into your home for a minimum of six months. How will this affect your normal life – in terms of your ability to visit or be visited by family, for example? What will you do at Christmas? Will you feel comfortable going away?
  • Are you and your partner/family (if applicable) equally committed to undertaking hosting?
  • Will you and your guest(s) have private places you can withdraw to? Sharing a kitchen is relatively easy, but how will you feel about sharing your living room? Can you provide somewhere reasonably comfortable for them to relax in as well as sleep?
  • Do you have the time and commitment to face the initial two to three weeks when your guest(s) will need support to find their way round our impenetrable benefits system and other systems?
  • What arrangements will you make about food? Most hosts initially cook for their guests while they adjust to their situation – this provides a potentially enriching experience as you develop a relationship and learn about each other’s lives. But how do you envisage the longer term? How will you manage the transition from the early days of high dependency and getting to know each other towards more separate lives? Some Hosts have continued to cook for their guests in the misguided belief that they are helping them. Guests need to take up a more normal way of living and settle into life in this country – they need to shop and cook for themselves, to re-establish some control in their lives.   
  • Do you live in the country? How easy will it be for your guests to get to services, meet up with other Ukrainians or get to work?  We are seeing a number of guests asking to move into Salisbury because of the isolation (Homes for Refugees will not place anyone outside cities because of this problem). If you do decide to go ahead, then please be very clear with your guests what the situation is BEFORE you link up and make the visa application.

None of us can be certain that we will hit it off with our guests, and Wiltshire Council and the Hub are here to help with any difficulties you may have. We are not trying to put you off! Most of our hosts and their guests report positive experiences, and if a relationship breaks down, there is support available from the Council and we will do all we can to help – including, if necessary, trying to find someone else to re-house your guest.  

2. Making a Visa Application

A detailed document entitled How to Make a Visa Application can be found separately under the Resources heading on our website. The document can be worked through slowly and saved. We suggest that you consider making the application on behalf of your family. You will need one application per family member including children

BUT, if making the application, please be careful when you have completed the questions, and just need to confirm them and upload the supporting documents: once you have submitted the information, YOU MUST upload the documents. If you take a break at this point, you must submit a new application and reinput all the data.

Sponsors will need to provide passport details and a PDF copy of your passport to upload, plus the passport details of any adults living with you. You will be asked how long you have been at your current address, any changes of name including maiden name, and previous/other nationality and dates (if applicable)

The applicants will need to provide:

  • their address in Ukraine
  • passport details and pdf copies to upload at the end
  • place of birth and birth certificate for children (if they have them) to upload
  • Proof that they were living in Ukraine before 01/01/22 if they have it
  • Phone contact details
  • details of all children and their father, even if he is not coming, for childrens’ applications

Many people cannot supply a utility bill to prove they lived in Ukraine on 31st December 2021, but it doesn’t seem to be important. Those without passports will be directed to a local passport office via the application process.

The application form requires both the applicant’s and the sponsor’s phone and emails. The systems is flexible – you can nominate yourself as contact for visa questions, but nominate the applicant for notification that a visa has been approved, and for ongoing communication in the UK.

3. Pre-arrival preparations

To reassure your family, who will be apprehensive, Homes for Ukraine suggest that before they arrive you should

  • provide information about yourself, your family and any pets, perhaps sending phots of yourselves and the room(s) available to them.
  • ask if they have any allergies or pets. If bringing pets, they will need all the documentation required to enter the UK, or the animals will be quarantined for weeks. Pets are not allowed on Eurostar, and most airlines do not allow pets in the cabin. Anyone wanting to keep their pets with them throughout their journey, will have to travel by car (although some European airlines do allow pets)
  • prepare their room(s), removing as many of your possessions as possible. Make sure you remove any items you will need, so you do not need to enter their room.
  • provide towels, sheets, and toiletries, as they may not have these when they arrive.

(other agencies suggest leaving these items in their room: toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, comb/hairbrush, soap, moisturiser, and hand cream, and if appropriate nappies, sanitary towels, nursing pads, baby care products, shaving items, and basic medicines like painkillers and anti-diarrhoea tablets. Many of these are deeply personal, and your guests may be too embarrassed to ask for them).

  • if possible, prepare a designated space for food in the kitchen/fridge.
  • if possible, buy one or two Continental Europe to UK plug adapters, so that your guests can charge phones and use other appliances as soon as they arrive.
  • Talk to your guests, if possible, to understand whether they need anything in advance. Some hosts have approached a local school to secure a place prior to the arrival of their family: this works well in the villages, where there is only one school, but those living in the city will have multiple options. Please be sensitive to the primary role of the parent(s) and ensure you are acting with their approval.
  • Establish what level of English they have, if any, and if they have visited the UK before.
  • Check if you need to update your home and contents insurance. Some companies do not require you to do so, saying that the refugee(s) will be treated as guest(s).

NB. Some very organised hosts have picked up forms, such as registration forms for your GP, in readiness for their guests’ arrival. You may find it useful to read B. The first few Weeks, available on the Reference page of our website.

4. Written welcome pack

Refugee agencies suggest preparing a written pack of information, not least because your guests have been under huge stress and may not take in everything in the first days with you. This should include things you need to establish about how you plan to live together, to avoid misunderstandings. You can translate this into Ukrainian using google translate. You might want to include:

  • A written welcome and offers of help
  • Keys for every guest
  • Maps – most people will use their phones, but a free local paper map is available from the Salisbury Information Centre.
  • Information about the Hub coffee mornings and back up support here, and reference to the Wiltshire and Government welcome packs for Ukrainians.
  • Some basic advice on shopping – the market, supermarkets, etc.
  • Notes on basic house facilities – washing machine, dishwasher, where to find cleaning equipment, iron and ironing board, etc
  • recycling arrangements
  • and any little “house rules” which need to be established to avoid misunderstanding or irritations for both sides.

5. Travel arrangements

It is best to meet your guest at the earliest point that they enter the UK, preferably at the Eurostar station or the airport. If this is not possible, they will need detailed instructions on how to navigate UK public transport, including maps and/or routes that you can link via Google Maps.

Eurostar and National Rail have said they will allow Ukrainians to travel for free within 48 hours of their arrival. Eurostar’s travel is free only from any Eurostar station to St. Pancras in London (not within France/Belgium/elsewhere). Pets are not allowed on these trains.

Most public travel options are free for Ukrainians for 48 hours after their arrival. This includes all trains in England, as well as the tube, DLR and buses in London. Your guests will need to show their Ukrainian passport and a boarding pass or ticket with their arrival date in the UK.

Ferry tickets: at least one family has travelled here by car, driving all the way from Kyiv. Their hosts managed to arrange free ferry tickets with DFDS which went very smoothly. Contact or with the name of the travellers and the car registration and they will email tickets out the same day.

6. Background on Ukraine…..

As part of your preparation for welcoming your guests, you may want to read up on some Ukrainian history and traditions. There are excellent books by a Kyiv based publishing house available to download for free:

7. Arrival and afterwards

Some tips from Jill Tomalin:

  • There are government welcome stands for Ukrainians in all the major airports and arrival points. The one at Luton at 8am in late April was not staffed, and was not visible from the arrivals gate. It was easier to stand near the arrivals gate, with a sign, to find my family.
  • My teenage guest had to ask me what he should call me – for him, it was obviously not normal to address me (aged 67 and in his eyes an “elder”!!) just by my Christian name.
  • There were several Ukrainian families arriving, at least some of whom were refugees. Most women hugged their Ukrainian guests on arrival – I had been very unsure as to whether this would be acceptable, but it was very natural for me and the children’s Mum to do. Men stayed back and shook hands! I would say, just trust your instinct in the moment.
  • Contact  as soon as your family have arrived in order to trigger the process of their initial £200 payment. In order to receive your 350 payment, you will need to go on line at:
  • Be prepared for frustrations in dealing with all the bureaucracy. Top priority is probably getting a UK Sim card 
  • There are a number of banks offering free accounts.
  • Your guests can start their application for Universal Credit before they have a bank account and should make their application as soon as possible – see also The first few Weeks, available on the Resources page of our website.
  • My biggest issue has been finding things for my teenage guests to do in the first days here, while their Mum and I wrestle with the practicalities – there is information on activities for young people in Living and Leisure in Salisbury, available on the Resources page of our website.
  • Translator apps on phones have been absolutely brilliant in enabling practical conversation and to allow them to ask all sorts of questions about life in the UK. If we are typical, expect plenty of curiosity! They are direct and straightforward in their questions. The translators have also enabled entertaining conversations at the dinner table, which we hugely value, and have undoubtedly helped us all to relax together. Ultimately, though, it is a good idea to reduce reliance on the translator as soon as possible, as it will help language development.
  • We had said we would cook at first until they were ready to do so. We found that our Mum really needed to start cooking for us almost immediately after her arrival, perhaps giving her some normalcy and enabling her to contribute here, and we soon started to alternate the cooking of the main meal – we found eating together initially once a day was valuable for us all. Within weeks, our family members found work or started school, and it made sense to start eating separately.