'Incomprehensible': Brit's wife 'ordered to go 500 miles to war-torn Kyiv' for UK visa

11 March 2022, 07:00 | Updated: 11 March 2022, 07:48

Richard and Tetyana endured a tortuous visa process
Richard and Tetyana endured a tortuous visa process. Picture: Richard Spinks
Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

A Ukrainian woman who is married to a Brit was ordered to travel 500 miles into war-torn Kyiv for a visa appointment with the Home Office despite government promises to get more relatives into the UK.

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It’s another damning story of mismanagement for the Government, which has been criticised for their handling of the refugee crisis.

British man Richard Spinks lives in Lviv with his Ukrainian wife Tetyana and their two British sons. As the war began, they tried to get to the UK.

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He says their experience had already been plagued with confusion and incompetence.

Richard told LBC: "On Tuesday I got a message from the outsourced subcontracting company essentially saying 'Don't forget you've got to be in Kyiv tomorrow to do your biometrics. Don't be late.

"We are now two and a half weeks past doing the biometrics, we're in a completely different country, thankfully we're not in a dangerous place.

"But many people probably are, and now potentially they're going to be struggling through a war zone, past Russians, to get to an appointment that doesn't exist.

"It's beyond incomprehensible to me."

They first heard she had been granted her visa on the 26th February, as they queued in their car in a 46-hour long wait to get to Poland.

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LBC has seen the visa emails
LBC has seen the visa emails. Picture: LBC
The emails confirmed an appointment
The emails confirmed an appointment. Picture: LBC

A Home Office representative promised they would be in touch that weekend with plane tickets to the UK.

Nearly two weeks later, they’re still waiting.

Then, on Tuesday 8th March, they received an email by the Home Office visa and consulate contractor TLS Contact.

That email reminded her to attend an appointment booked for 3.20pm the following day, at the Artem Business Centre in war-torn Kyiv.

That’s despite the office in Ukraine’s capital having been closed since the war began, due to the risk to staff.

Richard added: "I’d now love to know how many of the ‘granted’ visas have actually materialised into people turning up in the UK on planes and ferries, because I’d have a bet that there aren’t many.

"It’s like you’ve won the lottery but the cheque never shows up!"

Read more: David Cameron calls on Govt to make visa system easier for Ukrainian refugees

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Our UK Visa Application Centre in Kyiv is closed until further notice
Our UK Visa Application Centre in Kyiv is closed until further notice. Picture: Website screenshot

The Home Office wouldn’t comment on the specific case, but said in a statement: "Last week we announced a new sponsorship route which will allow Ukrainians with no family ties to the UK to be sponsored to come to the UK.

"This is alongside our Ukraine Family Scheme, which has already seen thousands of people apply, as well as changes to visas so that people can stay in the UK safely. We are protecting appointments for Ukrainians at all our Visa Application Centres, with a 24/7 helpline in place and deployed additional staff across the EU to help speed up the process further.

"The routes we have put in place follow extensive engagement with Ukrainian partners. This is a rapidly moving and complex picture and as the situation develops we will continue to keep our support under constant review."

Read more: Woman rescued parents from Ukraine after six-day drive before being held up in Calais

Read more: 'Ukrainian propaganda': Russia says pic of pregnant woman in hospital attack is 'fake'

Yesterday the Home Secretary said that from Tuesday, passport-holders trying to get to the UK will be able to apply online. While Ukraine’s ambassador to Britain revealed that he struggled to get a visa for his wife to come with him to Britain when he was appointed.

Vadym Prystaiko said the UK's immigration policy had been bureaucratic and out of line with the rest of Europe "even before the war".

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