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Foreign and Commonwealth Citizens

Latest news

Home Office Families Migration Changes

On 9 July 12 the Home Office changed rules governing family migration into the UK. At that time transitional arrangements were put in place to ensure serving members of the UK Armed Forces and their families were not affected until the Home Office and MoD completed a review into the impact on the Service community.

The review is now complete. It took account of the core principles of the Armed Forces Covenant, which now are embodied in legislation; namely, “no disadvantage” and “special treatment where appropriate”. Special measures have been put in place by the Home Office between now and the 30 November 13 to enable eligible members on the Service community to continue to apply under the old immigration rules.

From 1 December 13 the Armed Forces community will comply with the new family migration rules.

An Army Briefing Note and a Defence and Instruction and Notice (DIN) have been issued. The DIN includes question and answer material. Those who want more information should approach their Chain of Command. Those who wish to read the detail of the Home Office Families Migration Changes Statement of Intent can find it on the Home Office website using the link in the useful links section.

In addition the Home Office have opened a dedicated enquiries mailbox for email enquiries only about the HM Forces Families Migration Changes announced 4 July 13 to be implemented 1 December 13. Individuals are encouraged to read the MoD Defence Instruction and Notice and or the Home Office Families Migration Changes Statement of Intent (available on the Home Office website) or seek further information from their Chain of Command which should answer most questions, before making an email enquiry.

The Home Office inbox is armedforcesenquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk. It will be open from Mon 8 July 13. All enquiries should be clear and precise and individuals should identify themselves by their Name, Date of Birth and Nationality. Turn around time for responses will normally be 14 days. Complex enquiries may take longer to respond to.

Immigration Fees Changes 6 Apr 13

Following Parliamentary approval, there has been an increase in fees for visa applications made from overseas and applications made from within the UK from Saturday 6 April 2013. All applications submitted from 00:01 (UK time) on Saturday 6 April, must be accompanied by the correct fee. Any application accompanied by the old fee will not be accepted. Applicants can use an old version of an application form for 21 days following the increase, but these should be accompanied by the new fee. New versions of UKBA application forms will be available on the UKBA website. You can find further information about the new immigration fees on the UKBA 'Fees for our services' page. Follow the link in the right-hand panel.

New Home Office Guidance on handling Military convictions for Settlement/UK Nationality Applications published

The Home Office has produced new guidance for their staff on how to handle the differences between military criminal convictions which are handled in the same way as civilian criminal convictions and military non-criminal conduct convictions which should not be handled in the same way when considering the impact of criminality on Settlement and UK Nationality Applications. These changes are in line with the UK’s Armed Forces Covenant principle that individuals should not be disadvantaged through Armed Forces Service.

They have also introduced a new 'route' for affected eligible ex-Armed Forces personnel to remain in the UK. This is a new 30-month renewable UK visa which will allow eligible individuals to be granted permission to stay in the UK until minor unspent convictions are spent. This may then allow them to meet Settlement or UK Nationality criteria at the end of an unspent conviction period.

Military convictions will be assessed by the Home Office for settlement/nationality applications using the updated guidelines in Annex I of Section 2A of Chapter 15 of the Immigration Directorate Instructions.

Annex I also has information at paragraph 6 regarding direct applications for 30 months leave. If discharged/discharging personnel wish to, they will need to apply on an FLR(O) application form. To make things easier (and these cases more distinguishable from other FLR(O) applications), it would be helpful for individuals to include their own covering letter outlining the basis of their application.

In addition the new Home Office Criminality thresholds for applications made on or after 13 December 2012 are summarised in the tables below:

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

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

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.

Nepal

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.

Immigration information/advice

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.