Personal Immigration

Visa and deportation fears for Commonwealth military veterans

Every year several hundred Commonwealth personnel are discharged from the British armed forces and immediately become subject to UK immigration controls (from which they have been exempt whilst serving). Any individual who has served in the British military for more than four years can apply for indefinite leave to remain afterwards, but the process is made extremely challenging by the fact that it is currently not lawful to work, register with a GP or get any help from the local authority whilst an application for indefinite leave to remain is underway. The problem is compounded for many military veterans by the high cost of rising visa fees. But the choice is stark. If an individual leaves the army and fails to apply, they (and their family) face the possibility of deportation.

Rising fees

The Guardian newspaper’s Caroline Davies reports that there has been a 127% rise in the fees for indefinite leave to stay across the past five years and a 1,441% rise since 2003. She states that the sums are now so high that it would cost almost £10k for a family of four to apply. She writes, ‘hundreds of Commonwealth military veterans who risked their lives serving in the UK armed forces face spiralling debts after being forced to pay “exorbitant” visa fees to remain in the country after their discharge …’ 

A poor way to say, ‘thank you.’

Unlike overseas students in the UK who are able to stay on a student visa pending a Home Office decision, military veterans have no such rights. Various media outlets have recently confirmed that the British Legion has now gone on record to make the point that this is a poor way for a country to say ‘thank you for your service’ to our military veterans. The charity has taken the opportunity to write to the UK’s immigration minister, Caroline Nokes, calling on the government to ‘grant a waiver of fees in the next parliamentary session and abolish the fees altogether after that.’ They are currently asking people across the country to write to their MPs in support of the campaign.

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