This petition was submitted during the 2017–2019 Conservative government
Petition Stop charging commonwealth soldiers to stay in Britain!
Soldiers from commonwealth countries can apply for indefinite leave to remain, but it will cost us around two thousand pounds.
My South African husband has been serving with the British army for 12 years. He’s served in Iraq and Afghanistan, But if we do not pay he will be shipped off to South Africa when he’d done serving with the British army.
We’ve been married for 10 years and have a seven year old daughter and a four year old boy. If my husband was forced to leave the UK it would break up my family.That’s why I’m calling for the fees to be waived for commonwealth soldiers who serve in the British army.
This petition closed early because of a General Election Find out more on the Petitions Committee website
This response was given on 1 July 2019
All immigration fees are set within strict financial limits agreed with HM Treasury and Parliament.
Read the response in full
The Government recognises the outstanding service of all members of the Armed Forces, including the many service personnel who are foreign and Commonwealth nationals. For our part, we in the Home Office, as with all other Government departments, are absolutely committed to upholding our obligations under the Armed Forces Covenant.
It is for these reasons that we explicitly provide for foreign and Commonwealth veterans discharged from HM Forces to obtain settlement (indefinite leave to remain) in the UK, after having served for four years or more or having been discharged for medical reasons due to their service. Unlike other routes to settlement, where applicants must pay to apply for leave to enter the UK and for further limited leave to remain before making their application for settlement after five years, foreign and Commonwealth personnel are exempted from immigration control during their service and are only required to pay a single fee for settlement once they discharge. Settlement fees per person are currently £2,389.
To ease their transition to civilian life, foreign and Commonwealth citizens who are members of HM Forces may apply for settlement in the UK, up to 10 weeks before their discharge. This allows for the Home Office to conclude their application as near to the day after their discharge as possible.
The dependants of service personnel (including British citizens) can apply for settlement after spending 5 years with limited leave. This 5-year visa costs £1,523 per person. All are then eligible for citizenship after one year of settlement. There is no requirement for those looking to settle in the UK to naturalise as British citizens, but they are obliged to regularise their status upon discharge. All must pay the requisite fees for settlement and citizenship applications.
The Immigration Rules for members of HM Forces and their family members, as set out in Appendix Armed Forces, were put in place following a review conducted jointly by the Home Office and MOD. This review concluded that the current Rules were not in breach of our cross-Government obligations under the Armed Forces Covenant, to which we remain firmly committed.
There are two key differences between provisions for family members under Appendix Armed Forces and other families under Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules. These are to appropriately accommodate overseas service under our Covenant duty. These are:
1) a standard grant of limited leave is for 5 years, rather than 30 months, meaning they do not need to renew their visa before being eligible for settlement after 5 years’ residence, thereby also saving the cost of a second application fee; and
2) time spent overseas on an accompanied posting is regarded as time spent in the UK when calculating the 5-year residency requirement for settlement.
MOD make clear to all foreign and Commonwealth recruits into HM Forces the process by which they and their families can attain settlement in the UK, and the costs involved. They also support a ‘Joining Forces Credit Union’ which helps personnel to set up savings accounts and loan facilities. Many service charities, such as the Royal British Legion and Army Families Federation, also support serving personnel and veterans in their transition to civilian life, including preparing for and submitting immigration applications.
MOD are currently examining what additional support they can offer to non-UK personnel to prepare for transition to civilian life in the UK, including assistance in making the necessary immigration applications and paying the relevant fees. The Home Office works closely with colleagues in MOD, regularly liaising with MOD officials and Armed Forces charities about issues affecting HM Forces personnel and their families.
In respect of visa fees in general, the Home Office sets visa, immigration and citizenship fees at a level that helps provide the resources necessary to operate the Border, Immigration and Citizenship (BIC) system. We aim to reduce the overall level of funding that comes from general taxation by reducing costs and increasing resources generated from fee income. Application fees have increased in recent years to support this aim.
The Home Office reviews fees on a yearly basis and income from fees play a vital role in our ability to run a sustainable immigration and nationality system. If certain groups are given reductions or exceptions, then the burden of the system unfairly shifts to other applicants and the general taxpayer.
The Home Office has listened closely to representations made by a variety of campaigns and MPs on immigration issues affecting Commonwealth members of HM Forces and their families. The issue of settlement fees for service personnel and their dependants is a complex matter to which the Home Office is giving careful and ongoing consideration.