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 ILR in the UK as a foreign or Commonwealth citizen discharged from HM Forces are that the applicant:
*See exceptions for medical discharges with a criminal conviction below and those who discharged after four 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:
Spouses and children
Please note that spouses are only eligible for ILR on discharge if the soldier is also eligible.
Spouse has limited leave visa issued after 1st Dec 2013 under new rules.
You should have a visa issued for five 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 five years, click here and read the ‘visa error corrections’ section for information on how to get this rectified.
Spouse does not have a 5 year visa or is an overstayer
If you are an overstayer or are not sure what type of visa you have, please contact the F&C team and send us a copy of your current or previous visa(s).
Units should refer to Annex E in the ‘Unit guide to supporting non-British nationals’ on Dii for all details.
If you have been discharged and are still waiting for your ILR after a number of weeks, please contact the F&C team.Back to top
Guidance published in May 2015 allows soldiers who are overstayers and/or discharged more than two 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:
You should complete form SET(AF) as above and should provide your certificate of discharge. Contact AFF’s F&C team first before making an application.Back to top
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 four to six months before your date of discharge. This is because applications can take up to six 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.
F&C soldiers are unique in that they can apply for citizenship without first requiring ILR. This is because their exempt stamp is considered to be ILR for the purposes of naturalising.
So it makes sense to apply for citizenship during service as it means you won’t have to then apply for ILR on discharge, thus saving a lot of time and money. However, there is no requirement to apply for citizenship to be able to remain permanently in the UK, you are only required to get ILR.
Becoming a British citizen does not affect your spouse’s visa.
What happens if my application for citizenship is not processed prior to the end of the 28 days?
Should I apply for citizenship if my wife still has a limited leave visa?
New transition rules now mean that it no longer matters if the soldier becomes a British Citizen whilst the spouse still has their 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 four years. See the ‘Applying for ILR’ section above for more information.
Applying for Citizenship after discharge
“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.”
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
Limited leave will usually be granted where a foreign or Commonwealth soldier on discharge fails to meet the suitability requirements for ILR – see below. You still need to meet the suitability requirements for limited leave to remain, so if you are unsure about your conviction, you should contact the F&C team. You should complete form FLR(AF).
An application will be refused if any of the following apply:
An application will normally be refused if any of the following apply:
*Custodial convictions include time spent in MCTC
** non-custodial convictions include summary hearings/courts martial and any court-imposed fine (e.g. for speeding, assault or drink-driving). They do not include fixed penalty fines. They do include cautions.
Applying for limited leave
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 above or contact the F&C team.
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 court 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).Back to top
Applications for ILR
To qualify for settlement, the applicant must have been medically discharged by the MOD as a result of an injury or illness, which is attributable to service in HM Forces* and:
Applications should be made using form SET(AF).
*Attributable to Armed Forces service. One of the requirements to be eligible for any grant of leave on medical discharge with less than four years’ service is that your injury or condition has to have been assessed as being attributable to s ervice. If your medical documents (FMed 133 or 19) do not state this, then you can also try to make a claim through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS). If you are given compensation under the AFCS following medical discharge, then UKVI will accept this as evidence that the injury was attributable to service. More information about the AFCS can be found here. Soldiers discharged due to non-freezing cold injuries (NFCI) have successfully claimed compensation under this scheme.
Applications for limited leave
If you cannot meet the requirements above, limited leave will be granted instead in the following circumstances. If you know that you won’t be granted ILR because of your length of service, there will be no point in making the application for ILR. It will be cheaper to apply for further leave on form FLR(AF).
Limited leave will be granted for 30 months on code 1A, which will allow access to work and benefits. The evidence required for limited leave will not be great, but there is no guarantee that indefinite leave will follow a period of limited leave.
Applications for leave if injury or condition was not a result of service
Unfortunately, there is no longer discretion within the Armed Forces rules for leave to be granted if your injury or condition is not attributable to your service, however, the Home Office have agreed to a flexible approach on a case-by-case basis. Any such application should be made on form FLR(AF) and will be considered ‘outside the rules’.
Your eligibility to remain here is likely to depend on your personal circumstances e.g. if you have any British children, the time you have served for and lived in the UK for, the prognosis of the injury/condition and the situation in your home country with regards to continued treatment. Download this table, which gives some indication of the likelihood of success depending on the injury and length of time served. You will need to submit a covering letter with full details. Please contact the F&C team who can provide further information.
What can AFF do?
Although each case is different, it is not usually within our remit to provide individual assistance to soldiers who are discharging with less than four years’ service. These cases can require a lot of complex casework and may require a Level 3 caseworker if the application is refused. If you contact us we can give you some general advice and can refer you to an immigration advisor.Back to top
F&C soldiers who wish to stay at the Services 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.
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 occasion mean they are unable to accommodate personnel who leave the service.
You should speak to your unit welfare staff if you are interested in using this facility.
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