Foreign and Commonwealth citizens - MoD Historical Exhibition
There is a MOD exhibition entitled 'We Were There'. It shows shows how men and women from Africa, Asia, the West Indies and other Commonwealth countries fought and served alongside British forces from 1750 through to modern times. To find out more use the link in the right-hand column.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 countries that support each other and work together towards shared goals in democracy and development. To find out more use the external links section.
Citizens of Nepal can apply to join the Brigade of Gurkhas. There are about 3,500 Nepalese citizens serving in the Brigade of Gurkhas. To find out more use the external links.
Republic of Ireland
Citizens of the Republic of Ireland may apply to join the British Army. They serve on the same terms of service as UK citizens and receive the same, pay, allowances, compensation and pensions. To find out more use the external links section.
Joining the British Army from overseas
Commonwealth overseas applicants can apply online. The recruiting process will be conducted in the UK. To find out more use the links in the right-hand column. You must have the right to remain in the UK throughout the recruiting process.
There are about 7000 Commonwealth citizens serving in the British Army from outside the UK. They serve on the same terms of service as UK citizens and receive the same, pay, allowances, compensation and pensions. To find out more use the links in the right-hand column.
Gurkhas are soldiers recruited in Nepal to serve in the British Army. Selection takes place every December at Pokhara, in the centre of the country. Standards are high and 176 young men are selected to do their military training and join one of the specialist Gurkha units in the UK. Their roles include infantry soldiering, signals, logistics and engineering.
Immigration status whilst serving in the British Army
When a non-British citizen enlists into the British Army they automatically becomes exempt from UK immigration control under Section 8(4)(a) of the Immigration Act 1971. The UK Border Agency provides a free ‘Exempt UK Immigration Control’ passport endorsement in the individual’s passport along with a photo. It is called a vignette. The exemption suspends any existing UK visa restrictions, whilst the individual is serving in the Army.
Moving to the UK
Moving to another country is a major life event and it is important to research things before you make the move. Ensure you and your family consider such things as the cost of living and UK visas and travel, employment opportunities, healthcare, education, childcare, what it means to be away from your extended family along with any limitations on accessing UK state support like benefits. To find out more use the Directgov 'Living in the UK' external links section.
Paying for UK visas and British Citizenship applications
This is normally a personal responsibility. UK visa fees can be found on the UK Border Agency website. The UK Armed Forces only pays for UK visas or passports required for official travel. This does not include, any visas required by you or your family first moving to and remaining in the UK, settlement or UK citizenship applications.
The average cost of UK visas for a family of four to move from country of origin to the UK, apply for settlement and subsequently UK citizenship is currently about £7,000. You are strongly advised to budget and put money aside to save for the costs of UK visas.
You can use the information on the UK Border Agency (UKBA) website. If you are in the UK you can telephone the UKBA contact centres. Always use a qualified immigration advisor in the UK these are regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) and you can search for an advisor on their website.
In addition to advisors regulated by the OISC, the Community Legal Services website lists other advisers, including solicitors (who are regulated by their own professional bodies). You can also obtain advice from legally qualified professionals regulated by designated professional bodies. A list of legally qualified professionals who can advise on immigration matters is available from:
- the Law Society of England and Wales
- the Law Society of Scotland
- the Law Society of Northern Ireland
- the Institute of Legal Executives
The Law Societies of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and the Institute of Legal Executives cannot provide direct help or advice on visa applications. They can only provide a list of law firms who can advise on immigration matters'. You can find out more at the Directvov external link on 'Getting Legal Advice'
UKBA HM Armed Forces visa guide
The UK Border Agency have produced a 26 page guide to assist members of the UK Armed Forces, veterans and their families with making UK Visa applications. It provides answers to the most common immigration questions from potential, current and former HM Forces personnel and their family members.
Note that in addition there are specific immigration rules relating to the immigration status of those foreign nationals who have joined HM Forces and their dependants. The leaflet reflects the policies and processes applicable to members of HM Forces and their dependants at the time of publication but it does not replace the guidance on the implementation of the Armed Forces rules available in Chapter 15 of the Immigration Directorate Instructions (IDI) on the UKBA internet website. If there is any difference between what is stated in this leaflet and the IDI then you should rely on the IDI. A copy of the guide can be found in the useful links section.
Applying for UK Visas from overseas
Consider using the UK visa services on-line website where you can also download application forms and guides. To find out more use the external links section.
Applying for UK visas from within the UK
Use the UK Border Agency website where you can also download application forms and guides. To find out more use the external links section.
Applying for UK Citizenship
Use UK Border Agency website where you can also download application forms and guides. Individuals should carefully consider the impact of British citizenship on their existing nationality. Whilst UK legislation permits dual nationality this is not the case for all countries so individuals should be advised to check the implications of taking on UK citizenship from a trusted source of information in their country of origin or from their Embassy or High Commission.
Individuals should also consider the impact of British citizenship applications on any accompanying dependants' current UK visa status. A change of serving soldier’s nationality may result in the accompanying family members holding an incorrect status and they may be required to apply for a new UK visa at their own cost. Family members seeking clarification on this matter should seek advice. To find out more use the external links section.
Leaving the British Army
If you are a Commonwealth citizen and only hold your country of origin passport with a UK Exempt Immigration control stamp in it, in UK law, on the day you are discharged from the British Army, your exemption from UK immigration control ceases. Those who have not put in applications prior to discharge (which they can do up to 3 months prior to their discharge date) are normally granted 28 days to lodge an application or depart from the UK.
Once an application is lodged individuals may remain in the UK legally whilst the application is processed. Units should brief discharging Commonwealth citizens on this process in addition units provide individuals with a temporary British Army discharge certificate and cancel the exempt immigration vignette in a soldier’s passport. Units also notify the UK Border Agency when soldiers are discharged. Contact your unit for more information.
British Army Support to Immigration and UK Nationality matters
The majority of immigration and nationality matters are a personal matter between individuals and the UK Border Agency, so you are expected to use the UK Border Agency application process which includes complaints and appeals procedures. For Serving soldiers and their immediate families British Army support is normally confined to providing information and signposting to the UK Border Agency website, contact centres or sources of qualified immigration advice.
Further information can be obtained from either ArmyNET, the British Army Intranet site, unit HR staff or the Army Welfare Service. Veterans and their families can seek information and support through the Veterans-UK website and telephone helpline or the Service charities such as Veterans-Aid. To find out more use the external links section.
British Army Family Support
The Army Families Federation provides information and support for Foreign and Commonwealth families. To find out more use the external links section.
Information about the Zambrano Judgement
Sep 11 the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) handed down judgment in the case of Ruiz Zambrano (C-34/09) Sep 11 (http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/newsarticles/2011/september/48-british-carers). This judgement creates a right to reside and work for the sole carer of a dependent British citizen when that carer has no other right of residence in the UK and removing the carer from the UK would mean the British citizen would have to leave the European Union.
UKBA now have more detailed guidance on it's website which may assist eligible vulnerable families affected by relationship breakdown domestic violence etc at this internet link: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/eucitizens/documents-family/applying/. Those seeking further information are advised to seek advice from a qualified Immigration Advisor.
Support to victims of domestic violence
In addition to the support provided through the Army Welfare Service the UKBA has information for eligible individuals in the UK about how to apply for permission to settle permanently in the UK (known as 'indefinite leave to remain') if you are a victim of domestic violence and how to notify us if you need to access public funds. It also provides contact details for organisations offering support and advice to victims. More detail in the External Links section.