Ukrainian woman and husband heading home to London after month-long visa wait

Ronan and Iryna Ferguson have been staying in hotels in Dublin for the last month as they waited for the visa process to be completed.

29 March 2022

A newly married couple are finally going home to London after living in hotels for a month while the Ukrainian bride waited for a visa.

Ronan Ferguson, 38, married Iryna, 32, at the start of the year and, when he flew to London, she remained in Ukraine to change her passport and identity cards to her new name, as required by Ukrainian law.

However, a day or two after her new passport was issued, the Russian invasion of Ukraine began and her visa application was halted.

Mrs Ferguson, a gymnastics teacher, managed to leave the country on February 27 to Poland, where Mr Ferguson flew to meet her.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Mr Ferguson was critical of the Government’s visa scheme for Ukrainians (Aaron Chown/PA)

Unable to bring her back to the UK, they instead flew to Ireland and have since been living in hotels in Dublin – where Mr Ferguson is originally from – until finally getting word on Monday that the visa situation had been resolved.

“We’re actually looking forward to some home cooking, that’s for sure,” Mr Ferguson told the PA news agency.

“Cooking ourselves and being able to do our washing, and being able to sit down and just relax.”

Mr Ferguson, a chief technology officer, said he was “happy that common sense prevailed” after a month of attempting to navigate the visa application system.

He said they had initially applied for a fast-track visa, but then had to reapply through the family scheme because fast-track applications were no longer being accepted.

They submitted that application on March 15 and heard nothing for a week, Mr Ferguson said.

He chased the application and was told it had been received, he said, but continued to get no more information.

As late as Monday morning, Mr Ferguson said he was told incorrectly by a Home Office official that because they had not submitted biometrics, the application could not be processed.

Half an hour later, they received word that the application had been approved and promptly booked a flight to London on Tuesday morning.

“It seems to me like nobody actually knows what’s going on,” Mr Ferguson said.

“They say so-called helplines to call, but you call them and (they say) ‘oh, we’re sorry for your situation but unfortunately we cannot give any information’, ‘we don’t have access’, ‘check your reference numbers’ and stuff like that.”

The couple, who met while they were both working in Asia, said they are grateful their situation has been sorted.

But they are concerned that for Ukrainians who do not have access to a native English speaker, the system may prove impossible to navigate.

Mr Ferguson said: “There’s people still in limbo that are in Poland or still in Ukraine who have no contact with these applications centres or no contact with the Home Office because they aren’t being told where their application is and if they will get a decision any time soon.

“As I say we’ve had so many different answers from people who work in the Home Office, people who actually work in the centres – everyone provides a different answer on what the processes are and what needs to be done.”

While he said their situation is nothing compared to what many are experiencing, Mr Ferguson believes he has spent around £4,000 in the last month on travel, hotels and food.

He said the situation has changed how he feels about living in the UK.

“The people there that I’ve met on the ground, they’re very nice, but the Government are not welcoming at all, from what I’ve seen,” he said. “It does change how I feel.

“I always thought I was into politics and knew a bit, but what I’ve been through over the last month has really left something sour in my mouth.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We are moving as quickly as possible to ensure that those fleeing Ukraine can find safety in the UK through the Ukraine Family Scheme and Homes for Ukraine.

“We have streamlined the process so valid passport-holders do not have to attend in-person appointments before arriving in the UK, simplified our forms and boosted caseworker numbers, while ensuring vital security checks are carried out.

“We continue to speed up visa processing across both schemes, with more than 22,000 issued under the Ukraine Family Scheme.”

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