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Please check our COVID-19 section for up-to-date information, as the coronavirus outbreak may affect the advice given on this page.


01   Employment

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All spouses with ‘spouse visas’ are eligible to work in the UK, regardless of their nationality.

The UKBA website states: “If you have a residence permit that allows you to live here, it will say what restrictions (if any) there are on your employment.”

Essentially, if your visa does not say that you can’t work, then you can.

AFF is receiving an increasing number of enquiries from spouses who are already employed, but have been suspended because their visa is due to expire or has already expired. These spouses have made an application to extend their stay and are waiting for it to be processed. UKBA guidance states:

“What is my immigration status while my application is being decided? – If you make an application before your authorised stay ends, your existing immigration status will continue until your application is decided, even if the decision is not made until after the end of your permitted stay. If your existing visa or other permission to stay here allows you to work, you can continue to do so until your case is decided.”

If you are already working and have made an application to extend your visa before your visa expired, you should take in the application acknowledgement letter you received from UKBA as well as the evidence from the UKBA website (above) to confirm that you can still work.

Unfortunately, your employer does not have to allow you to continue working even with this evidence. UKBA also offers an ‘employer checking service’ which employers can use to check your right to work if you have an outstanding application. They have no obligation to do this though, and many employers seem reluctant to contact UKBA.

Yes – despite many employers insisting that you have a BRP, this is not a legal requirement. There are many people in the UK who don’t have a BRP because they entered the UK prior to 2015 and have not applied to renew a visa in the UK since 2013. If you have Indefinite Leave to Enter or Indefinite Leave to Remain on a visa in your passport, then you should show your employer the information at the this link. The information showing that you have a right to work is hidden on pages 19 and 24/25 of the document.

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02   How do I get a National Insurance number?

If you need to claim benefit and/or tax credit (or if your partner needs to claim benefit/tax credit for you), your application for an NI number will be done as part of the benefit claim process.

If you are looking for or starting work, you will need to make an appointment at your local job centre. For all information on obtaining National Insurance numbers, click here.

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03   Access to further education, higher education, NHS bursaries and student loans

A lot of the following information is taken from the excellent UK Council for International Student Affairs website www.ukcisa.org.uk – under ‘info and advice’, choose ‘England fee status’.

Publicly funded educational institutions normally charge two levels of fee: a lower ‘home’ fee and a higher ‘overseas’ fee. Whether you pay a ‘home’ or ‘overseas’ fee depends on whether you meet certain criteria.

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Further education courses include GCSEs, AS and A levels (and their equivalents), NVQs, GNVQs, BTECs and Access courses.

All information can be found here.

If you are aged 16-18, you will qualify for ‘home’ fees if you are the child of someone who has a valid visa to remain in the UK. There is no residency requirement.

If you are aged over 19 and a non-EEA citizen, you will qualify for ‘home’ fees if you:

  • Have ILR or you are the spouse/child or civil partner of someone with ILR. An F&C soldier with an exempt stamp is not considered to have ILR
  • Are the spouse or child of a British or EU parent who has lived in the UK for three years or

You have a valid visa and have lived in the UK for three years

Higher education courses include HNC and HND courses, undergraduate degrees (for example, BA, BSc, BEd) and postgraduate degrees (for example, MA, MSc or PhD).

You should qualify for ‘home’ fees at university if you fall into one of the following three categories. There are more categories on the website above, but these are the main ones for spouses and children of soldiers:

  • People who have ‘settled’ status (ILR or British citizenship) and have lived in the UK for the three years before the start of the course
  • People who are married to, or the dependant of a British citizen and have lived in the UK for the three years before the start of the course
  • People who are EU nationals and have lived in the UK for the three years before the start of the course.

If you are not sure whether you qualify as a ‘home’ student, it is always advisable to contact the universities you are interested in and ask to complete a ‘fees status questionnaire.’ This will allow them to assess your individual circumstances. If you are unhappy with the decision, contact the university for an explanation.

To be eligible for an NHS bursary you need to have settled status/ILR (or be an EU national) and have lived in the UK for the three years before the start of the course.

However, if you were away from the UK for all or part of the three-year period because you were on a posting overseas, you will not normally be prevented from being eligible for a bursary.

For more information about NHS bursaries, click here.

To be eligible for ‘home’ fees status and student finance, it is necessary to meet the requirement to have been ordinarily resident in the UK for the three years prior to the start of the course.

“You are ordinarily resident in the relevant residence area (which depends on the category and its qualifying conditions) if you have habitually, normally and lawfully resided in that area from choice. Temporary absences from the residence area should be ignored and therefore would not stop you being ordinarily resident”.

If you have been accompanying your parent/spouse on an overseas assignment, then the regulations allow for your time to be considered as residence in the UK:

“Under Paragraph 1(5) of Part 1 of Schedule 1 members of the regular naval, military or air forces of the Crown, of another EEA State or of Switzerland or Turkey on service outside the United Kingdom and Islands or the EEA, Switzerland and Turkey, as appropriate, are considered to be temporarily employed overseas for any such period. The effect of this is that a person may be treated as being or having been ordinarily resident in England, the United Kingdom and Islands or the territory comprising the EEA, Switzerland and Turkey if he would have been so resident but for the fact that he, his spouse or civil partner, his parent or, in the case of a dependent relative, his child or child’s spouse or civil partner was serving overseas. This group of people are in a special situation because of the unique nature of their employment, namely that they are bound by military law to accept overseas postings.”

Unfortunately, to meet the criteria to have been ordinarily resident, you also need to ensure you have not been an overstayer at any time during the three-year qualifying period. Even if you were subsequently granted a visa, your time in the UK without a valid visa will prevent you from being able to access student finance.

This is only available for those on higher education courses. In order to be eligible for student finance for the whole of your course, you need to ensure that you meet the requirements at the start of the course. If you are refused student finance due to time spent on an overseas assignment, you should contact the F&C team in the first instance.

Government Student Support website

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04   I currently live in the UK but I want to visit Europe/USA on holiday

If you do not have a British passport, then depending upon your nationality, you will usually need a Schengen visa to visit Europe (even if you have ILR).This currently covers 22 countries within Europe and will allow you to stay for up to 90 days (although this varies depending on which country issues the visa).

A Schengen visa is applied for at the Embassy of the country in which you will be spending the most nights on your trip or, if you are spending the same amount of nights in more than one country, then you apply for the visa from the Embassy of the country which you will enter first.

You will need to ensure that you have three months left on your UK immigration visa at the time that you return from your holiday. For more details and information on how to apply for a visa from France, click here. For links to the embassies of other Schengen countries, click here.

To travel to the USA it may also be necessary to apply for a visa, this can be done via the American Embassy in London, click here for all information

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