Foreign and Commonwealth members of our Armed Forces make up a significant and vital part of the UK’s Defence capability and, as a nation, we ask them to make significant sacrifices to do so.
We are, therefore, delighted the Government has listened to the overwhelming response of the Armed Forces community in recent months to waive visa fees for non-UK service personnel and veterans to stay in the UK after six years’ service.
We also warmly welcome news that the fee will be waived for those who have been discharged because of an illness or injury which is attributable to their service, irrespective of how long they have served.
When the Government launched its consultation last summer, and initially proposed to waive visa fees after a minimum of 12 years we responded, like many others in the Armed Forces community, to say this simply wasn't good enough. No one who served our country should have to pay to live here and the Government has taken a big step in the right direction.
However, we are disappointed the Government has not addressed another key issue we raised: the fees and complexity faced by the families of non-UK service personnel, despite the integral support they provide to an effective Armed Forces. Families experience the same stresses, strains, and sacrifices of Service life as our soldiers, sailors and airmen and women, including accompanying them on postings and supporting them through deployments.
For many, migration routes will remain a significant financial cost and many soldiers and veterans will continue to be kept apart from their families.
It is now, also, an important responsibility of the Government to give more consideration to the practical delivery of assisting Non-British Service Personnel to manage their service life and transition to civilian life. This includes the provision of regular information on immigration policy throughout the individual’s career in the Armed Services and to take further steps to engage, signpost, and support non-British nationals and their dependants, particularly in dealing with other key concerns such as transition and discharge.
Ultimately, while this is a hugely welcome development, we urge the Government to go even further and to recognise the contribution of non-UK partners and dependents, as well as providing guidance and support for non-UK serving personnel throughout their service and transition out of the Armed Forces.
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