Scrapping visa fees for Commonwealth veterans
To remain or not to remain
Soldiers from across the Commonwealth are feeling the financial pinch of choosing to remain in the UK after their service has ended. There are currently over 6,000 recruits from countries including India, Canada, and Australia; they are not subject to immigration controls while serving in the UK Forces, but this exemption ends once they are discharged. Commonwealth veterans who have served in the British Armed Forces for a minimum of four years have the right to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). However, this is an expensive process which is increasing in cost annually. If these veterans are unable to pay the visa fees for commonwealth veterans, they may be subject to removal.
Visa fees for commonwealth veterans – how much does it cost?
The application fee for ILR was implemented in 2003 for a modest charge of £155 per person. Since then the fees have increased at an alarming rate. Today the application fee for ILR costs £2,389 per family member, up 1,441% from when it was first introduced. At these rates, it would cost a veteran with a partner and two children £10,000 to settle in the UK after their service. For many, these fees are unaffordable, but the results of not paying them can be costlier. Without Indefinite Leave to Remain, veterans may be cut off to public funds, denied access to employment, and consequently forced to uproot to their countries of origin.
What’s being done about it?
It’s unsurprising that many view the subjection of exorbitant visa fees to Commonwealth veterans as unreasonable; it is a hefty burden on those who have sacrificed to serve the nation. The Royal British Legion started a campaign called, ‘Stop The Service Charge’ (#stoptheservicecharge) which aims to raise awareness of the difficulties facing these veterans with the public. The campaign encourages citizens to get in touch with their MPs to voice their objection. The campaign is seeing recent progress with over 130 MPs, across parties, coming together in an effort to ease the financial strain for Commonwealth soldiers. The Home Office is being urged to act and abolish visa fees for Commonwealth veterans of UK forces.