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Applying for ILR on/after discharge Click here to open and close this section
Spouses and children
Once you are discharged from the Army your exempt stamp is cancelled and you will be granted 28 days to make an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in order to remain in the UK (if you are eligible). See below for guidance on when you can apply.
The requirements for indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom as a foreign or Commonwealth citizen discharged from HM Forces are that the applicant:
- has completed at least four years’ service with HM Forces; or
- meets the medical discharge criteria (see section below) and
- has been discharged less than two years before the date of application* and
- is not in the UK in breach of immigration laws except that any period of overstaying for a period of 28 days or less will be disregarded**; and
- Meets the suitability requirements*** - see the 'Main requirements' section on the Visa's page.
*See exceptions for medical discharges with a criminal conviction below and those who discharged after 4 years prior to 2014 but did not apply for ILR.
**See exceptions for soldiers who discharged prior to March 2014
***See exceptions for discharging with a criminal conviction below.
When and how to apply:
- Soldiers are able to apply for ILR up to 10 weeks prior to discharge.
- You should complete form SET(AF), click here for a link to the form and guide.
- You should tick the box marked ‘a former member of HM forces on discharge under Appendix Armed Forces’.
- You CAN include your spouse and children on the same applications form.
- You DO NOT have to complete sections 5, 6 and 7.
- You DO NOT have to meet any English language requirements or take the Life in UK test or provide details of your finances.
- If you make your ILR application prior to discharge, UKBA should send you an ‘indicative letter’ to assist with making arrangements for housing and employment whilst you wait for your ILR. Click here for a sample letter. This letter should be accepted as proof of your status in the UK, if any potential employer or Local authority refuses to accept this then you should contact the Armed Forces enquiry line at email@example.com with full details.
- One-day appointments at Public Enquiry Offices can be made AFTER discharge.
1. Spouse has limited leave visa issued before 1st Dec 2013 (soldier not a British Citizen at the time of application).
You can apply for ILR up to 10 weeks before the soldier is due to discharge or anytime after the discharge but before the visa expires. You will be eligible for ILR as long as the soldier has/had served for 4 years. You will not have to meet any English language or Life in UK test requirements. Complete form SET(AF), you will need to tick the box marked ‘The partner or child of a foreign or Commonwealth member of HM Forces who is applying under Part 7 transitional arrangements’ on page 3.
2. Spouse has a 2 year visa issued after the soldier became a British Citizen.
You will need to continue on this visa and will be eligible to apply for ILR up to 28 days prior to the visa expiring. You will need to meet the Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK requirements. Complete form SET(AF), you will need to tick the box marked ‘The partner or child of a foreign or Commonwealth member of HM Forces who is applying under Part 8 transitional arrangements’ on page 3.
3. Spouse has limited leave visa issued after 1st Dec 2013 under new rules.
You should have a visa issued for 5 years and will not be eligible to apply for ILR until 28 days prior to the visa expiring. You will need to meet the Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK requirements (more details can be found here) and minimum income requirements. Complete form SET(AF), you will need to tick the box marked ‘partner or child of a member of HM Forces who has been discharged’ on page 3. There will be no applications under this route until Dec 2018 at the earliest. If you weren’t issued a visa for 5 years, click here and read the 'visa error corrections' section for information on how to get this rectified.
Units should refer to Annex E to PS4(A) Unit guide to supporting non-British Nationals on Dii for all details.
- Units should brief you on the changes to your immigration status at least 3 months prior to discharge.
- The Unit should inform UKBA up to 10 weeks before the discharge date by completing column A of the Discharge Proforma (Appendix 1 to Annex E above)and faxing it to the Armed Forces Team at UKBA.
- On the day of discharge the unit should strike through the exempt endorsement on the passport with the statement “ceased and the discharged or finished date” written over the exempt endorsement. The unit must complete Column B of the Discharg Proforma (Appendix 1 to Annex E) ensuring the Service Person signs the declaration.
- They should ensure that a faxed letter granting you 28 days leave to remain arrives from UKBA. Until UKBA have been informed of your discharge and have sent you a letter granting you 28 days to remain, you are still considered to be exempt for immigration purposes.
If you have been discharged and are still waiting for your ILR after a number of weeks, please contact the F&C team.
Applications from soldiers who discharged after 4 years Service without applying for ILR
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New guidance published in May 2015 now allows soldiers, who are overstayers and/or discharged more than 2 years ago, to apply for ILR if they met the requirements above at the time of discharge.
The full guidance can be found here on page 11 - 12. And says;
They must not be regarded an overstayer if they have not had any form of leave since they ceased to be exempt from immigration control. This is regardless of how long ago they were discharged.
It will be appropriate to consider granting settlement outside of the Immigration Rules when:
- the applicant has served a tour of duty in a conflict zone or been deployed on humanitarian duties within the 10 years before the date of application
- the only reason for refusal under the Immigration Rules is because the application is out of time and/or the applicant was discharged more than 2 years ago
- it is not possible to show that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) or UKVI informed the individual of the responsibility to regularise immigration status on discharge
You should complete form SET(AF) as above and should provide your certificate of discharge.
Applying for Citizenship prior to discharge Click here to open and close this section
All information about applying for Citizenship can be found on the Citizenship page.
WARNING! You should only apply for citizenship if you have at least 4-6 months before your date of discharge. This is because applications can take up to 6 months to process and you won’t be able to continue with a successful transition if you don’t have evidence of your right to remain in the UK. If you don’t then apply for ILR first.
What happens if my application for citizenship is not processed prior to the end of the 28 days?
- Unlike applications for visas, your immigration status at the time of application for naturalisation will not continue whilst the application is being processed. So once the 28 days is over you will be considered to be an overstayer.
- You may need to apply for some form of leave whilst the application for naturalization is considered. This can be done using form FLR(AF).
your application has not been processed after 6 months you should contact the F&C team who should be able to check on
New transition rules now mean that it no longer matters if the soldier becomes a British Citizen whilst the spouse still has her limited leave visas. It is also no longer cheaper to make a joint application for ILR. The cheapest option is for the soldier to apply for Citizenship prior to discharge and for the spouse to apply for ILR. The spouse is eligible for ILR as long as the soldier has served for 4 years. See the ‘Applying for ILR’ section above for more information.
Applying for Citizenship after discharge
- You can only apply for Citizenship after discharge if you have already been granted ILR. If you don’t apply for Citizenship prior to discharge you will need to apply for ILR instead within 28 days of the date of discharge.
- Discharged soldiers can apply for Citizenship immediately after they have been granted ILR if they meet the other requirements. There is no requirement to wait for 12 months.
- This information is clearly written in the UKBA guidance on Citizenship for Armed Forces (Annex B1 to Chapter 18) see below. This applies to all F&C and Gurkha soldiers.
3.3.1 While in the Armed Services, applicants are exempt from immigration control and therefore free of immigration time restrictions. Applicants will have been free of immigration time restrictions throughout their period of service. In many cases, former armed services personnel will have been granted ILR on discharge and will meet the requirement to have been free of immigration time restrictions in the 12 months prior to the date of application.
- However, spouses will need to apply for ILR and then wait for 12 months prior to applying for citizenship as they were not exempt from immigration control at the time of the application.
- You will be unable to make an application for Citizenship whilst still serving.
- You will need to make an application for ILR instead. See the 'Applying for ILR' section.
Discharging from overseas Click here to open and close this section
Discharging from overseas: F&C soldiers can only be discharged overseas with the agreement of the chain of command and with proof that they can legally live in that country i.e. a German visa to reside in Germany. Soldiers wishing to return to their Country of Origin must discharge from the UK.
The circumstances of your discharge and how long you have served may determine how soon you can go back to the UK prior to the date of your discharge. You should speak with your unit/UWO as soon as possible to establish the earliest date you can return to the UK.
Soldier applications for ILR/Citizenship:
Soldiers are unable to apply for ILR whilst overseas, they must return to the UK to make the application. Citizenship can be applied for but only if there is enough time to complete the process prior to posting back to UK. Refer to sections above.
Spouses married to commonwealth soldiers
- Spouse/family with no valid visa: Contact the F&C team for assistance.
- Spouse/family with limited leave to remain visas: You will have to return to UK on your limited visa and then apply for ILR with the soldier once back in the UK. Unless the visa is due to expire within 28 days in which case you should apply for another extension or ILR if eligible. For further information see the 'Visas during an overseas assignment (applications under transition rules)' section on the Visas page.
- If your soldier is British you could apply for Citizenship under the Crown Service rules – for the criteria see the 'Citizenship page - overseas applications'.
- If your soldier is British and you have ILE or ILR you could make a standard application for Citizenship – for more information see the 'Citizenship page - overseas applications'.
- If your soldier is not British and you have ILE or ILR you could make a joint application for Citizenship – for more information see the 'Citizenship page - overseas applications'.
You should ensure that you have plenty of time for these applications to be processed prior to posting back to UK. Soldiers do not need to send off their passports but spouses are required to do so. You should be aware that passports often get posted back to the British Embassy in Berlin and it can take a number of weeks to get them returned. You are then required to apply for a British Passport which could take another 4-6 weeks. If you are due posting within 6 months it is not advisable to make an application for Citizenship from overseas.
Discharging with a criminal conviction Click here to open and close this section
Limited leave will usually be granted where a foreign or Commonwealth soldier on discharge fails to meet the suitability requirements for ILR - see the 'Main requirements' section on the Visas page. You still need to meet the suitability requirements for limited leave to remain. You should complete form FLR(AF).
- Tick the box in section 2 marked ‘limited leave as a HM Forces member on discharge’
- You must complete sections 3 and 4 if you have a partner, even if they are not applying for a visa with you
- If you are applying on your own ignore section 7 and got straight to 8B. If you are applying with family members then you will need to complete this section. If your family members had visas as dependents prior to 1st Dec 2013 then you should tick yes in question 7.1A and then go to section 7B
- You should be granted on code 1A which allows access to both work and benefits. If you are not granted this please contact the F&C team.
When can I apply for indefinite leave?
This will usually depend on whether your conviction was custodial or non-custodial, you should check the suitability requirements. See 'The Main requirements' section on the Visas page.
Once you are eligible you can apply for ILR using form SET(AF).
Is my military conviction the same as a criminal conviction?
Guidance has been published which should make it much clearer to work out whether your conviction in a military court (whether a Summary Hearing or Courts Martial) is considered to be criminal or disciplinary and how it will affect an application for settlement or Citizenship.
You should read the guidance at this link carefully.
If you are still unsure about your conviction then you should speak to your chain of command (platoon officer or OC, discipline clerk or RAWO).
Medical Discharges with less than 4 years' Service Click here to open and close this section----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Housing considerations on discharge Click here to open and close this section
- Click here for information on civilian housing options
- Contact the Joint Services Housing and Advice Office (JSHAO) as soon as possible as well as being able to offer a wealth of advice on housing options, they also run a referral scheme to help you into social housing up to six months prior to discharge, predominately that provided by Housing Associations.
- JSHAO has been able to house families whose ILR has not yet been issued and has a lot of experience in assisting F&C families.
I applied for ILR but I haven’t had a response from UKBA yet and I have just received my Notice to Vacate:
If your ILR application has been delayed and you are unable to move out of your property, it is important that you keep DIO Service Delivery Accommodation updated:
- You should complete the Proportionality Exercise form which is sent out with the Notice to Vacate
- You should ensure you respond promptly to DIO requests for information regarding the ILR application date and progress on the application.
- If ILR is applied for at least 10 weeks prior to discharge court action is not taken. DIO may ask for evidence of the date the application was submitted or a copy of the indicative letter issued by UKBA.
- However, court action may proceed in cases where the Irregular Occupant has caused management issues on the estate (e.g. noise/neighbour issues etc) or where no payment of Damage for Trespass (ie the rent) is made.
- If DIO is only informed at the court hearing about the ILR application then they will still proceed to obtain the order. However they will not seek to enforce the order by eviction until they have further details about the application. DIO is able to contact the Armed Forces Team to access further information.
If you have not applied for ILR in advance of discharge then you should contact the F&C team for further advice.
Services Cotswold Centre Click here to open and close this section
F&C soldiers who wish to stay at the Cotswold Centre throughout the discharge process need to show that they have the funds to make the necessary applications for ILR as well as the funds to pay for their stay until ILR is issued and benefits can be applied for.
- Accommodation charges for serving personnel are £7.25 per day.
- On discharge you are required to pay the local authority accommodation rate which is £125 per week.
A soldier with a spouse and 2 children may therefore be expected to show they have approximately the following funds:
- ILR application for soldier and 3 dependants: £2, 479
- Accommodation charge for 15 weeks (£125 pw): £1, 875 TOTAL £4, 354
Unfortunately if you cannot prove that you have the necessary funds, you may not be eligible to stay. The Services Cotswold Centre is keen to avoid circumstances in which an F&C family is unable to apply for ILR within 28 days of discharge, then become ‘overstayers’ and have to leave the UK.
The Services Cotswold Centre has a small but dedicated team who will assist you in the transition to civilian life. They will assist with ILR applications and with applications for relevant benefits. They are also able to offer advice to families applying for social housing.
The Services Cotswold Centre has a limited number of properties which are in great demand, they are primarily a transit facility for serving personnel and their families which may on occasions mean they are unable to accommodate personnel who leave the service.
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