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Foreign and Commonwealth Citizens

Latest news

Guidance on immigration control for HM Armed Forces

Regular and dependants of Regular Armed Forces

A member of the Regular Armed Forces (Royal Navy, British Army or Royal Air Force) who is subject to service law is exempt immigration control under Section 8(4) of the immigration act 1971 (except for the provisions relating to deportation).

The exemption ceases on discharge from the Armed Forces and the Home Office will be informed of the discharge by the service persons discharging unit. Dependants of the Regular Armed Forces are not exempt from immigration control and they will need to apply for a leave to enter visa under the Armed Forces route to settlement on form VAF (AF). 

Dependants of Regular Armed Forces who are intending to enter the UK with a view to settle should not apply for a visit visa as they will not be classed as on route to settlement nor will it entitle the dependant to occupy Service Family Accommodation, do paid or unpaid work, get public funds or to live in the UK past the visa expiry date. If the dependant remains in the UK past any visa expiry date they will be classified as an 'over stayer' and this will affect any future immigration application.

Reserve and dependants of Army Reserves

A member of the Army Reserve (including those on FTRS) are not exempt immigration control unless they are called-out for permanent service, (commonly called mobilisation) under of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 (RFA 96) Sections 52, 54 or 56. The immigration exemption for mobilised service will cease on demobilisation and the Mission Training and Mobilisation Centre (MTMC) will inform the Home Office of the Reservist’s demobilisation. 

Members of the Army Reserve must retain a valid right to work visa for the whole period of any FTRS commitment or mobilised service. There are no provisions within the Immigration Rules for the dependant of a Reservist to enter or remain in the UK solely on the basis of their sponsor’s reserve service and the immigration status of Reserves dependants will not change as a result of the sponsor’s Reserve service which includes FTRS commitments or if called-out for mobilised service. The dependant will remain on the immigration conditions for which they were originally given to enter or remain in UK.

The immigration and nationality fees for all applications made from outside and within the UK changes annually on 6 April, the current rate of fees can be found on the Guide links on this page. All applications submitted from 00:01 (UK time) on 6 April in any year must be accompanied by the correct fee. Any application accompanied by the old fee will not be accepted.

Important changes to English Language Requirement for Partners and Parents in 2017 

The new A2 requirement for partners and parents applying for further leave to remain under the family Immigration Rules will be introduced from 1 May 2017. The A2 requirement applies for further leave to remain on a 5-year route to settlement as a partner or parent, where their visa is due to expire on or after 1 May 2017. Partners of members of HM Forces who are applying for further leave to remain under Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules will be required to meet the new A2 requirement unless they are exempt from it.  

The new A2 English language requirement will not apply to the partner of a member of HM Forces who has been granted 5 years’ leave to enter or remain under Appendix Armed Forces to the Immigration Rules and who is not required to apply for further leave after 2.5 years (30 months).

More information on the A2 language requirements can be found on the Guide links.

Settlement

   Sentence for a criminal offence  Impact on Settlement applications
 1 4 years or more imprisonment Application should be refused, regardless of when the conviction occurred.
 2 Between 12 months and 4 years imprisonment Application should be refused if the conviction occurred in the last 15 years.
 3 Up to 12 months imprisonment Applications should be refused if the conviction occurred in the last 7 years.
 4 A non-custodial sentence Applications should be refused if the conviction occurred in the last 2 years.

Nationality

   Sentence  Impact on Nationality applications
 1 4 years or more imprisonment Application should be refused, regardless of when the conviction occurred.
 2 Between 12 months and 4 years imprisonment Application should be refused if the conviction occurred in the last 15 years.
 3 Up to 12 months imprisonment Applications should be refused if the conviction occurred in the last 7 years.
 4 A non-custodial sentence Applications should be refused if the conviction occurred in the last 3 years.

A link to Annex I of Section 2A of Chapter 15 of the Immigration Directorate Instructions is in the related links section.

Serving personnel wishing to establish if they have a military conviction should seek advice from Unit HR/RAO staff in the first instance. Where units are unclear, Chain of Command G1/Disciplinary staff assistance should be sought. Individuals with questions about this new guidance should address them to the UKBA in the first instance following the link in the related links section.

Alternatively individual applicants seeking advice may use of either a solicitor (a qualified lawyer who is a member of the Law Society) Community Legal Advice or an adviser who is officially regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). This will ensure that the representative is properly qualified to advise them and meets approved standards.

Leaving the Army?

New advice has been published for F&C citizens regarding Redundancy, Settlement and Discharge.

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General information for F&C citizens

Immigration Rules Appendix Armed Forces

The immigration rules Appendix Armed Forces applies to members of the Armed Forces and their families who seek to enter or remain in UK. You can find out more about the rules on the external link section.

The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 52 independent and equal sovereign states that support each other and work together towards shared goals in democracy and development. To find out more use the external links section.

Nepal

Citizens of Nepal can apply to join the Brigade of Gurkhas. There are about 2,500 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

Applications are still being accepted for non-specialist roles from those who have resided legally in the UK for five years and can meet all the other criteria. In addition, Commonwealth citizens may apply for a limited number of specialist roles when spaces are available. 

These are technical roles for which the normal five year UK residency requirement has been waived.  Candidates are provided with a letter of invitation by the National Recruiting Centre (NRC) to come to the UK to undertake selection. 

Candidates are, however, personally responsible for meeting the Home Office’s visa requirements to both enter and then legally remain in the UK, and for financially supporting themselves during the selection process. Please note the Army only has 150 vacancies each year in this category.

To find out more about recruiting and the current vacancies use the external links.

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 approximately 250 young men are selected to do their military training at the Brigade of Gurkhas and subsequently join one of the specialist Gurkha units. Their roles include infantry soldiering, signals, logistics and engineering.

Immigration status whilst serving in the British Army

When a non-British citizen fulfils the immigration requirements and enlists into the British Army they are granted UK immigration control under Section 8(4)(a) of the Immigration Act 1971, in the form of  an endorsement called a vignette.

This exemption must be applied for by the soldier's unit shortly after they enlist. The exemption suspends any existing UK visa restrictions, whilst the individual is serving in the Army and subject to military law. The exemption ceases on discharge.

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

The UK Armed Forces do not pay for UK entry visas for entitled dependants to join a soldier to establish a family life. The UK Armed Forces only pays for those visas or passports that are required for official travel, this generally means when assigned overseas. This does not include, any visas required by the soldier or family first moving to and remaining in the UK or transiting through the UK onto an overseas assignment. The payment for all UK entry visas is at personal cost unless it is deemed to be official.

If you intend in the future to apply for settlement (on discharge) or for UK citizenship when you qualify, you are strongly advised to budget and put money aside to save for the application costs which can be considerable especially if it includes any qualifying dependants. The UK Armed Forces do not pay for settlement visas or citizenship for the soldier or their entitled dependants. The current visa and immigration fees are in the guide section.

Immigration information/advice

You can use the information on the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) website. If you are in the UK you use the UKVI contact centres.  If there is a requirement for legal advice, 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 should be dealt with by the applicant as per the direction in any correspondence sent to them by the Home Office, this includes UKVI application process, appeals and  complaints procedures.

For serving soldiers and their entitled immediate families, the British Army will provide support and information and, if necessary, refer the individual(s) to an appropriate authority or contact centre that can give further assistance or qualified immigration advice if required.

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.

Support to victims of Domestic Violence or Abuse

In addition to the support provided through the Army Welfare Service the UKVI has information for eligible individuals in the UK only 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 or abuse.

It also provides contact details for organisations offering support and advice to victims. More detail can be found in the External Links section.