Brexit - F&C

What about the spouses of soldiers?


Information taken from the Home Office’s EU Settlement Scheme: Statement of Intent, 21 June 2018.


01   Why are EU spouses different to Commonwealth spouses in the UK?

Commonwealth spouses (or other foreign spouses) with valid visas, married to soldiers, are in the UK under UK Immigration Law (Immigration Act 1971). The UK Immigration Rules allow for F&C spouses of soldiers to enter and remain in the UK as long as they meet a specific set of requirements. These are unique rules and differ in a number of ways to the rules written for civilian spouses.

EU spouses in the UK are usually here under EU law (specifically the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016). Currently, any EU national can come to the UK and remain here without requiring a visa. They are eligible to remain legally in the UK if they are working, a student, self-sufficient or self-employed. After 31 December 2020 the EU rules will no longer exist, so it will be necessary for all EU nationals in the UK to switch onto the UK immigration rules.

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02   What are the deadlines?

The UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019. However, there will be an ‘implementation period’ which will run from 30 March 2019 to 31 December 2020. The agreement with the EU extends the same protections to EU citizens and their family members arriving in the UK during this period. Therefore, there will be no change to their current rights under EU law until 31 December 2020.

Every EU national already in the UK by midnight on 31 December 2020 will need to make an application to remain before the deadline of 30 June 2021.

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03   What happens after 31 Dec 2020?

EU citizens will need to meet the requirements of the UK immigration rules to enter the UK after 31 Dec 2020. For spouses married to soldiers, this will mean meeting the requirements of Appendix Armed Forces in the same way that Commonwealth spouses are required to do.

An EU spouse in the UK on 31 Dec 2020, who does not make an application by the 30 June 2021, will be considered to be an overstayer.

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04   What about spouses who are overseas or who have previously spent time overseas?

AFF has been raising this issue at meetings with senior Home Office staff, to the chain of cpmmand and to the Armed Forces minister for over a year. It is a positive step that the Home Office has at last publicly acknowledged that special consideration needs to be given to HM Forces families. The Statement of Intent says:

“3.6. We are considering carefully how we can ensure that EU citizen family members of HM Forces personnel, and EU citizen Crown servants and their family members and the EU citizen family members of British citizen Crown servants, are not unfairly disadvantaged under the scheme by absences from the UK as a result of overseas postings. Further details will be published in due course.”

It would be a clear disadvantage under the terms of the Armed Forces Covenant to suggest that an EU spouse or child who has accompanied a soldier on an overseas assignment would not be eligible for ILR because they had not spent five years in the UK. We await further information about this.

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05   What visa will EU nationals get if they apply before the deadline?

EU nationals who have been in the UK for five years by 31 December 2020 – will be eligible for ‘settled status’ (ILR). The cost will be £65. If you already have a ‘permanent residence’ card, the application for settled status will be free.

EU nationals who have not been in the UK for five years by 31 Dec 2020 – will be eligible to apply for pre-settled status (limited leave), which will enable them to stay legally until they have reached the five years. They can then apply for settled status, which will be at zero cost.

There will be a phased roll-out of the application scheme, but it will be fully operational by 30 March 2019.

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06   What are the requirements?

Thankfully, the main requirement for eligibility will be five years’ continuous residence in the UK. There will be no requirement to show that you were a ‘qualified’ person (i.e. were working or self-sufficient). This is good news for many spouses married to British soldiers who have never been officially qualified to remain in the UK because they weren’t claiming comprehensive sickness insurance.

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07   What evidence will need to be supplied?

Automated checks of HMRC and DWP data will be undertaken after an application is received. If these indicate that the applicant has spent five years in the UK, then no further evidence will be required. If they don’t, then the applicant will need to upload documentary evidence, which they will be advised about.

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08   Where can I go for further information?

The AFF website will have up-to-date information particularly relating to spouses who have been on overseas assignments. EU citizens and their family members can also sign up for email updates.

Click here for guidance on the website.

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