F&C Latest News 


On this page:

22 May - Waiting time in the immigration tribunal now a year and a half
18 May - Success! One year passport issue for soldiers resolved
11 Apr - Fees update
03 Apr - Brexit update
Good news! Increase in immigration appeal fees reversed!
28 day grace period for overstaying abolished
New EU factsheet: the rights of EU nationals in the UK
AFF receives Covenant funding to support F&C victims of Domestic Abuse
Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) payment and refunds - update
AFF Foreign & Commonwealth support back on track
Brexit – what about spouses of soldiers? - Link will take you to our F&C FAQs page.
Biometrics Residence permits for spouses on overseas assignments
Saving for visas with credit unions
‘Exempt’ confusion on online visa form
Landlords ‘Right to Rent’ checks
Overstayers update
Visas, citizenship and passport applications - made easy
AFF success: immigration rules changed for spouses on discretionary leave visas
Do I have to be earning 35K to be able to stay in the UK?
AFF success: policy change for children born during overseas assignments
Unit guide to supporting non-British nationals

 

Waiting time in the immigration tribunal now a year and a half

The latest tribunal statistics, published in March 2017, show that the average waiting time for appeals to be heard in the immigration tribunal for visas to enter the UK is 83 weeks.

With 51% of all entry clearance appeals being allowed, that is a very considerable impact on a lot people wrongly kept apart by poor quality immigration decisions. It is presumed that the huge waiting times are linked to the recent reported shortage of immigration judges.

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Success! One year passport issue for soldiers resolved

After four years of raising this issue and pushing for a change in policy, HMPO have waived the requirement for Service personnel in the UK and overseas to have to attend an interview before they can get a full 10-year passport. Soldiers will no longer be issued with a one-year passport. Unfortunately, the process for spouses is still being reviewed; spouses will therefore continue to be issued with one-year passports for the time being. For further information, please click here.

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Fees update

New fees for immigration and nationality applications came into effect on 6 April 2017. The changes include an increase of 18% in settlement (ILR) applications to 2,297 and dependent relative applications to a huge 3,250. Meanwhile, naturalisation fees have been held at a 4% increase to 1,202, compared to a 25% increase last year.

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Brexit update

In March 2017, the AFF Chief Executive met with the Minister for Armed Forces. During the meeting she raised the disadvantage that EU spouses on accompanied overseas assignments face because their time overseas is not counted as residence in the UK (if it is for more than 12 months). Also in March 2017, the F&C Specialist and the AFF Chief Executive met with the Armed Forces Policy team at the Home Office. This disadvantage was again raised. Our Home Office contacts confirmed that they had put this issue on the table and that they would continue to raise it during future Brexit negotiations. The F&C Specialist will monitor developments and will post any updates.

The guidance for EU spouses in the FAQs section has been updated, please click here for further information.

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Good news! Increase in immigration appeal fees reversed!

In a surprising but very welcome development, the Government has reversed the 500% increase in fees for immigration appeals which took effect on 10 October 2016. Fees will instead be charged at the old rates and those who have paid the higher fees in the last few weeks will have their payments refunded.

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28 day grace period for overstaying abolished

From 3rd November 2016 it will no longer be possible to make a valid application within 28 days of the previous leave expiring. However, an out of time application will not be refused if the Home Office considers that there is ‘a good reason beyond the control of the applicant or their representative why an in time application could not be made, provided the application is made within 14 days of the expiry of leave’. These new overstayer rules are found at para 39E of the Immigration Rules. 

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New EU factsheet: the rights of EU nationals in the UK

Factsheet written by Colin Yeo, Barrister, click here. Unfortunately no further news for EU spouses of military personnel in the UK on the issue of comprehensive sickness insurance or whether time spent outside of the UK on assignments will count as residence in the UK. If you have experience of making a permanent residency application either recently or in the past, please contact the F&C team to share your experience.

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AFF receives Covenant funding to support F&C victims of Domestic Abuse

AFF is delighted to have received a grant through the Covenant Grants Fund to provide much-needed practical support to Foreign & Commonwealth (F&C) Army families dealing with Domestic Abuse (DA).

This new support is available to any F&C spouse of a serving person in any location in the UK or overseas. Support is limited by available funding and is not a self-referral scheme – families must be referred to us by a relevant welfare contact or organisation..

Supporting the F&C community.

Our F&C Specialist has been providing qualified immigration advice and information to F&C victims of DA for a number of years. At a policy level, they were instrumental in lobbying for a change to the immigration rules to allow spouses of soldiers to apply to remain in the UK if their relationship breaks down because of DA.

However, due to a lack of resources, at an individual level their assistance has so far been limited to providing immigration advice or information via phone or email - far from ideal for these vulnerable spouses who often need practical help gathering evidence, writing statements and completing applications. .

This new funding will allow us to help spouses directly with their application form to remain in the UK during a very stressful time.

Supporting victims of DA.

The grant will also help us to work closer with support organisations to develop best practice working methods when dealing with an F&C case and to inform others about the unique problems that many F&C families can face.

If you are currently supporting an F&C spouse who is a victim of DA and who needs immigration advice, then please contact AFF at fcsupport@aff.org.uk. Download a leaflet detailing the service on offer.

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Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) payment and refunds - update

Unfortunately, we are still waiting for UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) to update the online application form to include an Armed Forces option.  

We were originally promised that it would happen by the beginning of the summer but, although it appears that work is still being done, it is yet to appear. In the meantime, any spouse/child wishing to come to the UK will have to pay for the health surcharge upfront in order to complete the application process.

The payment required is an additional 600 on top of the cost of the visa application itself.

Getting a refund

There is no official refund route on the UKVI website; the only way that we are aware of for you to secure a refund is to let us know the following details:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Nationality
  • Passport number
  • IHS reference number

We send this information to our contact at UKVI who then has to contact each individual visa-issuing post to arrange for the refund to be granted.

This is quite a long-winded process and can therefore take some time. We are unable to influence or give any indication of how long it might take. All we can really do is collate the information.

If you have been waiting for over six months, you can get in touch with us and we will ask that your case is prioritised.

Can you help us? 

If you have received a refund, please get in touch with us so that we can ensure the list is as up to date as possible.

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AFF Foreign & Commonwealth support back on track

AFF is delighted to welcome Jessica Harriman to the role of AFF Foreign & Commonwealth Assistant.

Foreign & Commonwealth (F&C) queries remain one of our largest areas of enquiry and we pride ourselves on the exceptional service we offer to families.

If you have an F&C related query, the F&C pages on the AFF website should always be your first point of call where you may be able to find the solution.

However, If you do need to contact Jessica, please email fcsupport@aff.org.uk with your:

  • Name
  • Telephone number
  • Enquiry details
  • Copy of visa or letter from Home Office
  • Personal details i.e. length of Service of soldier or date of discharge, date when soldier naturalised, date when spouse/child entered the UK, place of birth of children etc.
  • Any deadline dates

If you don’t provide as much information as possible it will take longer to receive the advice or information that you need.

Jessica is available Monday to Friday, 10am to 2pm and will contact you as soon as she can – usually within 10 working days.

If you query is more urgent, please visit the gov.uk website  where you may be able to access a government approved advisor who can meet a tight deadline. Please note, there may be a charge for this service.

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Biometrics Residence permits for spouses on overseas assignments

AFF has been informed that the previous information we were given regarding BRPs was incorrect. UKVI are continuing to issue visas to for only 30 days to spouses who are on overseas assignments. However it will not be necessary to travel during that time if you are not able. Once you are able to travel you will need to apply for a a new 30 day visa using the online form. You need to select ‘other’ then ‘other’ then ‘vignette transfer’. This will cost 189 per person. You will need to return to the Visa Application Centre to submit the application along with the passport. You should be able to request a refund for the cost. If you are in this position can you please let us know.

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Saving for visas with credit unions

The MOD has made it possible for three of the UK’s leading credit unions to join forces and make simple savings accounts and loans available to Forces families. The money is taken directly from your soldier’s salary. This is a great way to plan ahead for paying for ILR or Citizenship. For full details, visit www.joiningforcescu.co.uk

For information and assistance with debt problems, click here

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‘Exempt’ confusion on online visa form

A few people have been told by the UKVI International enquiry service that they must select the ‘exempt’ option when completing the online application for a visa for a family member to enter the UK. This is wrong!

The ‘exempt’ option is for International Forces family members only. If you apply using this option, your application is likely to fail. For information on how to apply for a visa for a spouse or child, click here

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Landlords ‘Right to Rent’ checks

The Government’s “right to rent” scheme requiring landlords to conduct checks on the immigration status of tenants came into force on 1st February 2016. Private landlords can now be fined up to 3000 for renting property to people who don’t have the correct visas to remain in the UK.

Given the complexities of immigration status and visa documents, it is clear that this new requirement is going to lead to some people being wrongly turned away and the possibility that black and Minority Ethnic people will be discriminated against.

AFF is concerned that these new requirements are going to affect soldiers and spouses on transition who may be looking to rent from a private landlord. If you are affected by this new requirement we would like to hear from you.

Further information about the new scheme can be found here.

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Overstayers update

Updated UKVI guidance has confirmed that it is possible to apply to remain under the transition rules (Part 7) if you previously held a visa as the spouse/child of a soldier. Spouses and children whose dependant visas have expired should be granted limited leave to remain for 4 years and would be able to apply for ILR once the soldier has served for 5 years. For information on how to apply see the 'Visas' page and scroll down to ‘overstayers and discretionary leave’

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Visas, citizenship and passport applications - made easy

Check out our useful flowchart or click here to download the pdf version.

Visas, citizenship and passport applications made easy!

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AFF SUCCESSAFF success: immigration rules changed for spouses on discretionary leave visas

Many F&C spouses in the UK are wrongly on a discretionary leave visa due to an incorrect application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after their soldier became a British Citizen.  

Previous rules prevented spouses from applying for ILR once their soldier had naturalised until two years had been spent on a different visa.

Discretionary leave was a route created for failed asylum seekers and should never have been given to our spouses.

AFF has lobbied for change on this issue since 2011 and has at last succeeded in bringing about a change in the rules to enable these spouses to apply for ILR.

Find out more: If you’re affected by this issue, further guidance can be found at page 11 of this link.

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Do I have to be earning 35K to be able to stay in the UK?

Some of you may have heard about the recent change to immigration rules which mean that migrants must now be earning at least 35,000 to stay in the UK after six years.

Army families should rest assured that this new rule does not apply to military personnel or their dependants, who have their own routes and thresholds.

The rule applies specifically to those who enter on the Tier 2 routes (point based system) only. Tier 2 is for those coming to the UK to work.

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AFF SUCCESSAFF success: policy change for children born during overseas assignments

Since 2011, AFF has pushed for policy change to address the fact that children born to military F&C families during overseas assignments are not born British – a clear disadvantage due to posting location which leaves families having to pay 749 to apply for Citizenship. 

We are very pleased to announce that the MoD has now agreed to start funding the cost of these applications for children born on or after 1 April. Unfortunately, applications for children born prior to this date will not be eligible for reimbursement.

Find out more: Your soldier can find further information in the newly published DIN ‘Family Migration Rules for UK Armed Forces family members who are Non-British’ 2013DIN01-142. 

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Unit guide to supporting non-British nationals

Calling all UWOs…
Do you need some advice on foreign & commonwealth issues?
Make time to check out this unit guide outlining Home Office and MOD immigration policy for non-British soldiers and their families.
Not sure about the unit responsibility with regards to overseas assignments, discharging non-British soldiers or other concerns?
For guidance on these issues, as well as links to relevant policy documents and a range of useful template documents, click here and have a read today.

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