Closed petition Exempt Commonwealth Service Personnel having to pay fees to remain in the UK

Foreign commonwealth armed forces personnel and veterans should be exempt from paying fees and taking the life in the U.K and language tests during naturalisation as long as they have served for the minimum contract required and have qualified for the length of stay required.

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Remove these fees as a token of appreciation for their service.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Government responded

This response was given on 11 August 2020

The Home Office is working actively with the Ministry of Defence to review and resolve this issue.

The Government recognises the outstanding service of all members of the Armed Forces, including those non-UK personnel from the Commonwealth as well as the Gurkhas from Nepal.

The MOD has stepped up its Commonwealth and Gurkha recruitment to build on the long-held links the UK military has with Commonwealth countries and Nepal, from which recruits from across the globe have served bravely in a variety of roles and in many conflicts. The Government is absolutely committed to upholding our obligations under the Armed Forces Covenant.

It is for these reasons that we explicitly provide for non-UK veterans discharged from HM Forces to obtain settlement (indefinite leave to remain in the UK or indefinite leave to enter 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, non-UK personnel are exempted from immigration control during their service and should they choose to settle in the UK are only required to pay a single fee once they discharge. Settlement fees per person are currently £2,389.

To ease their transition to civilian life, non-UK 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. Non-UK personnel applying by themselves are not required to meet an income or assets threshold, do not need to be sponsored by an employer, and do not need to meet any requirements regarding their skills, knowledge of the English language or knowledge of Life in the UK.

Commonwealth personnel can also naturalise as British citizens in-service after five years in the UK at a cost of £1,330 without the need to apply for settlement first unlike other immigration routes. Gurkhas are however required to remain Nepalese citizens while serving in the Brigade of Gurkhas. All grants of citizenship are dependent on passing the Life in the UK test. Those who are nationals of an English-speaking country are exempt from the English language requirements.

The Navy, Army and RAF place information on their recruitment websites and recruitment staff ensure non-UK personnel are aware of the implications of the Immigration Rules so they can make an informed choice about joining the British Armed Forces.

The Government is 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 financial arrangements. To help non-UK service personnel plan for the cost of visas, a number of savings plans already exist including those offered by the Joint Forces Credit Unions (JFCU). MOD has been working closely with the JFCU over the last year to raise awareness of the availability of these schemes. 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.

Despite the relatively small number of applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain on the Armed Forces route, immigration and nationality fees are set within strict financial limits agreed with HM Treasury and Parliament. The level of any fee is also aligned with clear principles balancing several complex factors, including the benefits likely to be accrued by the applicant.

The Home Office has listened closely to representations made by a variety of campaigns and MPs on whether members of HM Forces should pay settlement fees. The Home Office is working actively with colleagues at the MOD to review and resolve this issue.

Joint response from Ministry of Defence and Home Office

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