Overseas assignments for F&C families

Contents

01   Things to consider prior to an overseas assignment

If the Service person has been assigned overseas or is considering submitting a preference for an assignment overseas, you are advised to read the information below to consider if there any steps you need to take prior to leaving the UK.

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You don’t have a valid UK visa

You will need to have a UK visa in order to accompany your partner overseas. If you are in the UK without a visa (or with your service person in another country without a UK visa)  you should contact the F&C Team to find out what you need to apply for.

You have limited leave issued for 5 years* which is due to expire during the assignment overseas

You should be eligible to apply for indefinite leave (ILE) up to 28 days before your visa is due to expire, but you will need to have taken the Life in UK test before you travel overseas. The Life in UK test is only available in Cyprus and the UK and is a requirement for an application for indefinite leave. See https://www.gov.uk/life-in-the-uk-test

You may also need an English language certificate; the tests are available in most overseas locations but not all. It is advisable to check as it may be easier to take the test before you leave the UK. See https://www.gov.uk/english-language

You will also need to travel to the nearest visa application centre to have your biometrics taken as part of the application process. Not all countries have VACs, so you may be required to travel some distance. To check the location of the nearest one click here.

*if your visa was not issued for 5 years please get in touch with us.

You have a visa which is due to expire before you travel overseas

You should get in touch with the F&C team with a copy of your current visa and dates of assignment. As you cannot apply for ILR earlier than 28 days before your visa expires, it may be necessary to ask for your application to be fast-tracked. The unit will need to be informed of the situation and will need to provide a letter to confirm the assignment.

Information about citizenship applications overseas under Crown Service rules can be found here.

The Life in UK test is only available in Cyprus and the UK and is a requirement for all applications for Citizenship (both serving personnel and spouses). You will therefore need to take the test before you travel overseas if you are not posted to Cyprus. See https://www.gov.uk/life-in-the-uk-test

You may also need an English language certificate; the tests are available in most overseas locations but not all. It is advisable to check as it may be easier to take the test before you leave the UK. See https://www.gov.uk/english-language

British passports for spouses naturalised overseas

Spouses who naturalise during an overseas are not eligible for a full 10 year passport until they have returned to the UK on assignment and can attend an appointment. You may be able to get a passport for the length of your assignment.

If your soldier is not a British Citizen and/or you do not have ILR then the child will not be born British. However, the child has an entitlement to citizenship. You will need to make the application for Citizenship as soon as possible after birth as this can take a number of months to be processed. The application fee will be reimbursed by your unit (see section 5).

For all information click here.

If your home country passport is due to expire whilst you are overseas you should check that it can be renewed from the overseas location by checking if your country has an Embassy or High Commission in the country you are posted to. If not you would have to travel back to the UK to apply to renew it, so it would be easier to apply for a new one before you travel.

YOU SHOULD NEVER LET YOUR PASSPORT EXPIRE WHILST OVERSEAS.

Visa costs

Visas required during an overseas assignment are paid for by the Unit:

JSP 752, Chapter 9 Section 13 outlines the provision of visas for dependants at public expense:

‘09.1303. In order to mitigate the impact of the Home Office Families Migration Changes minimum income threshold requirement on Service personnel with non-EEA dependants on accompanied overseas assignments, authority is granted for the provision and maintenance of UK visas in advance of official travel for all non-EEA dependants on accompanied overseas assignments.

Passport reimbursement   

2017DIN01-117: All Service personnel and members of the civilian component and their dependants, regardless of their nationality, who are required to travel on official duty to, or are assigned to, a country that requires a valid passport, are to be provided with one at public expense.

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02   Applying for your first UK visa during an overseas assignment

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If you have married a soldier whilst on an overseas assignment you need to apply for the 5 year visa under Armed Forces rules as soon as possible. YOU DO NOT need to wait until the soldier has an assignment order. Three reasons why you need a UK settlement visa;

  • you may not be entitled to dependent status, some overseas postings require a UK visa in order to issue status stamps
  • you wont be able to travel to UK at short notice if the soldier is posted or for medical reasons
  • you wont be able to count the time spent overseas towards the 5 year residence requirement.

You need to follow the guidance under ‘visa to enter UK’  for submitting an online application and for submitting all supporting documents. You should not apply for indefinite leave if this is your first UK visa. You should not apply for a visit visa. You should select the following option:

The form will presume that you are travelling to the UK, it will therefore ask questions that will not be relevant:

  • The person you are joining or accompanying? You need to write the soldiers details here
  • What permission you have to be in the country? If you are not a national of the country you are in, you can select that you have a temporary visa and put the ‘valid until’ date as the date of assignment back to UK.
  • Date of travel to the UK? As you are not applying for a visa with the intention of travelling to the UK it does not matter what date you choose.
  • Where do you wish to collect the BRP from? You will be asked to submit a UK postcode. The form will not accept a BFPO number or corresponding BF1 postcode.   You will just need to select any postcode.  You cannot ask someone to collect it instead (refer to section 4 below).

You will need to submit a letter from the soldiers unit to confirm that you are currently on an overseas assignment.

Children’s applications = separate applications will need to be made for each child applying.  If the child is not the biological child of the soldier please contact HQ Regional Command Family Support Team at RC-Pers-FamSp-0Mailbox@mod.gov.uk.

The visa should be paid for by the unit at the time of submitting the application. You are not expected to pay the visa yourself and to then request a refund via JPA. Your unit should raise any questions about payment of visas to HQ Regional Command Family Support Team at RC-Pers-FamSp-0Mailbox@mod.gov.uk.

JSP 752, Chapter 9 Section 13 outlines the provision of visas for dependants at public expense:

‘09.1303. In order to mitigate the impact of the Home Office Families Migration Changes minimum income threshold requirement on Service personnel with non-EEA dependants on accompanied overseas assignments, authority is granted for the provision and maintenance of UK visas in advance of official travel for all non-EEA dependants on accompanied overseas assignments.

 09.1305. Method of Payment: The actual costs of passports and visas are normally paid by ePC, in exceptional circumstances payment can be made from the unit SCOA account.

UKVI will presume that you will be travelling to the UK and will issue you with a 30 day ‘vignetter’ which will be stuck into your passport. Under normal circumstances you would be expected to travel to the UK within those 30 days to collect your permit. You cannot request for your permit to be collected by anyone else.

You should not travel to the UK at your own expense to collect the permit. You should ask your unit what you are supposed to do. Your unit should raise the issue to the HQ Regional Command Family Support Team at RC-Pers-FamSp-0Mailbox@mod.gov.uk.

You should speak to your soldiers unit to make them aware of the situation. If there are less than 12 weeks before the posting date and you have not yet applied for the visa, then its likely you will not receive your passport back in time to travel. Your unit should contact the HQ Regional Command Family Support Team at RC-Pers-FamSp-0Mailbox@mod.gov.uk for further advice.

You should speak to the soldiers unit ASAP who should raise the query to the HQ Regional Command Family Support Team at RC-Pers-FamSp-0Mailbox@mod.gov.uk.

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03   Applying to renew a visa during an overseas assignment

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  • You are on an overseas assignment
  • The soldier
    • has an exempt stamp and has completed five years’ service or
    • Is a British Citizen
  • Your relationship is still subsisting
  • You have completed a continuous period of 60 months with leave as the partner of the same member of HM Forces (issued on or after 1st December 2013). Please note, you do not need to have spent the whole 5 years in the UK in order to qualify for ILE,  you just have to have had the visa for 5 years.
  • You meet the suitability requirements (this mainly relates to any criminal convictions you have had)
  • You meet the KoLL requirement (Knowledge of English Language and Life in UK) https://www.gov.uk/english-language and https://www.gov.uk/life-in-the-uk-test.  Please note, you can usually take an English language test whilst on an overseas assignment, but you can only take the Life in UK test in Cyprus and the UK. If you return to the UK to take the test it will be at your own expense.
  • You meet the Minimum Income Requirement

The MIR applies to all spouses and children applying to remain under the Armed Forces rules. There are no discretions in place for the Armed Forces.

You must show the income* has been met for at least 6 months. You can combine the joint income of the soldier and spouse.  British children and children eligible for indefinite leave do not need to be included.

  • Partner with no children – £18,600
  • 1 child in addition to the partner – £22,400
  • 2 children in addition to the partner – £24,800
  • 3 children in addition to the partner – £27,200

* income includes money from a pension, cash savings above £16,000 and non-work income such as property rental

Please note – you can only apply for ILE up to 28 days before your 5 year visa is due to expire. If this does not leave you with at least 12 weeks before your posting date please speak to your unit who should contact the HQ Regional Command Family Support Team at RC-Pers-FamSp-0Mailbox@mod.gov.uk.

1. Click here for the online form.

2. Select Join or accompany a family member, then select A current or former member of UK Armed Forces

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3. Then follow the steps until you reach the Select a visa type page, you will then need to scroll down and select the fourth option down.

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4. You will also have to complete an ‘Appendix 2 financial requirement’ form which you will be given a link to after you have selected the options above. This form must be printed, completed and taken with you to the appointment. You do not need to complete the paper-based HM Forces application form.

The online form will presume that you are travelling to the UK, it will therefore ask questions that will not be relevant:

  • The person you are joining or accompanying? You need to write the soldiers details here
  • What permission you have to be in the country you are in? If you are not a national of the country you are in, you can select that you have a temporary visa and put the ‘valid until’ date as the date of assignment back to UK. Or select that you do not have a visa and are not a permanent resident and write in the box that you are ‘accompanying your spouse who is a solider on an overseas assignment’
  • Date of travel to the UK? As you are not applying for a visa with the intention of travelling to the UK it does not matter what date you choose.
  • Where do you wish to collect the BRP from? You will be asked to submit a UK postcode. The form will not accept a BFPO number or corresponding BF1 postcode. You will just need to select any postcode.  You cannot ask someone to collect it instead (refer to section 4 below).
  • Have you been to the UK in the past 10 years? You will be asked to select a reason, choose the ‘other reason’ box and write that you previously lived in the UK as the spouse of a serving soldier and are now on an overseas assignment with the serving soldier.’
  • Have you ever been given medical treatment in the UK? Were you told that you had to pay for the treatment?  Just select ‘no’ here.

The visa should be paid for by the unit at the time of submitting the application. You are not expected to pay the visa yourself and to then request a refund via JPA. Your unit should raise any questions about payment of visas to HQ Regional Command Family Support Team at RC-Pers-FamSp-0Mailbox@mod.gov.uk.

JSP 752, Chapter 9 Section 13 outlines the provision of visas for dependants at public expense:

‘09.1303. In order to mitigate the impact of the Home Office Families Migration Changes minimum income threshold requirement on Service personnel with non-EEA dependants on accompanied overseas assignments, authority is granted for the provision and maintenance of UK visas in advance of official travel for all non-EEA dependants on accompanied overseas assignments.

 09.1305. Method of Payment: The actual costs of passports and visas are normally paid by ePC, in exceptional circumstances payment can be made from the unit SCOA account.

Once you have paid for and submitted your application you will be given a checklist of the supporting documents. These will include:

  • Evidence that the financial requirement is met:

(a) Payslips covering:

  • A period of six months prior to the date of application if the person has been employed by their current employer for at least six months or
  • Any period of salaried employment in the period of 12 months prior to the date of application if the person has been employed by their current employer for less than six months and

(b) A letter from the employer(s)* who issued the payslips confirming:

  • The person’s employment and gross annual salary;
  • The length of their employment;
  • The period over which they have been or were paid the level of salary relied upon in the application; and
  • The type of employment (permanent, fixed-term contract or agency) and

*  a template letter for units can be found in the Unit guide at this link

(c) Personal bank statements corresponding to the same period(s) as the payslips, showing that the salary has been paid into an account in the name of the person or in the name of the person and their partner jointly

  • Evidence that you have permission to be in the country you are applying from
  • Copy of the soldiers passport and exempt stamp (do not use the ID card)
  • Evidence that you meet the KOLL requirement
  • Marriage certificate or a civil partnership certificate
  • Evidence of divorce if previously married
  • Unit letter to confirm that you are on an overseas assignment and that you live together
  • Appendix 2 Financial Requirements form

After you have completed the form and have paid, you will be requested to make an online appointment to attend your nearest visa application centre to have your biometrics taken and to provide certain documents. There is a charge of £55 for attending the appointment, which you should be able to claim back.

  • Your passport.
  • Printout of the email confirming the details of your appointment.
  • Printout of your checklist.
  • Evidence that you have permission to be in the country you are applying from, if you are not a national of that country.
  • The relevant appendix you were asked to download and complete.

You should check the process for submitting the rest of the supporting documents using your visa application centre website. You can either choose to upload the documents yourself or pay for the Visa Application Centre to do this. There will be an additional charge (approx. £60) for this service though so you should check with the unit that they will also pay for this.

You should speak to your unit who can contact the HQ Regional Command Family Support Team at RC-Pers-FamSp-0Mailbox@mod.gov.uk.

If you had a 5 year visa then you can still apply for either ILE, or another 5 year visa. If you didn’t have a 5 year visa you should speak to your unit who should contact the HQ Regional Command Family Support Team at RC-Pers-FamSp-0Mailbox@mod.gov.uk.

You will need to apply for an extension of your current leave. You will be given another 5 year visa under Appendix Armed Forces. You will need to apply as though it is your first visa following the guidance at section 4 ‘Applying for your first UK visa during an overseas assignment’.

Once you are back in the UK you will be be able to take the test and can then apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) at any time within the 5 year period following the guidance in section 3. You don’t need to wait until the expiry of your new visa. However, you will need to pay for the cost of the application yourself.

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04   Citizenship applications during an overseas assignment

VERY IMPORTANT – do not send any original passports or biometric residence permits (BRPs) to the Home Office whilst on an overseas assignment. Please follow the guidance on how to provide documents in the relevant sections below

KEY POINT: Make sure you are not due posting within the next 9-12 months. Whilst applications are usually approved within 6 months, it can then take up to 12 weeks to receive an invitation to attend your citizenship ceremony.  If you move within this time, it will delay the whole process and usually leads to a lot of extra work for the F&C team.

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  • Read the ‘Main requirements’ section
  • Apply following the guidance at this link
  • You should get a certified copy of your passport to send in with the application. DO NOT send in the original passport.

  • Must be married to a British Citizen for 3 years
  • Soldier must have been recruited in the UK (Crown Service not available to spouses of Gurkhas who have transferred to the wider Army*)
  • Must meet the good character requirement, see here
  • Must meet the Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK (KoLL) requirement see sections 5 and 6 below
  • Will need a letter from the Unit to confirm you are accompanying the soldier on an overseas assignment. This is not a letter of support, merely a letter confirming facts.

*Spouses of ex-Gurkhas – Only spouses of soldiers who were enlisted in the UK are eligible to apply using the Crown Service rules. This means that spouses of Gurkhas who have transferred to the wider Army are not able to apply. AFF has previously raised this issue with the Home Office. Unfortunately, although the Home Office agrees this is an unfair rule, to change it will mean a change in primary legislation which realistically is not going to happen when this affects a relatively small number of people. You may be able to make a standard application instead, see below.

  • Spouse has indefinite leave to remain (ILR)
  • Spouse has had ILR for 12 months or their soldier is British
  • Must meet requirement to have been in the UK at the start of the 5-year (or 3-year if soldier is British) residential period. Read the ‘Main requirements’ section. Your time out of the UK on overseas assignments if you are a Commonwealth spouse will count as residence but only if you were in the UK on the first day of the 3-year period.
  • Must meet the Good Character requirement – click here
  • Unfortunately, if you are the spouse of a Gurkha soldier you are disadvantaged because you are not eligible to count your time spent out of the UK as residence in the UK.
  • It is recommended that you contact the F&C team for a covering letter to go with the application.

You should apply online

Please note – when completing the form DO NOT put a UK postcode, put the BFPO address in the postcode box

Full guidance can be found here.

Select No when asked if you have been granted indefinite leave (unless you have already got ILR). Then select No when asked if you meet the residence requirements. Write in the box ‘I do not meet the residential requirements but am applying under Crown Service rules as my husband is a British soldier serving overseas. I have provided a letter to confirm this’.

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Complete the next page as shown below and then complete the details about the soldiers overseas assignment. Finally, if you wish, you can also complete the final page as follows:

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All information about taking an approved English language test can be found here: Prove your English language abilities with a secure English language test (SELT)

To book a test you will need to find out who the providers are in the country you are currently located in. Click on the list of approved test centres outside the UK on the link above and scroll down to find the country you are in (it is organised in alphabetical order of the country). Some countries have more than one provider, others only one. Then go to the website of your chosen provider to book the test.

You should ensure that you book the correct test at the correct level. You need to have passed at level B1 in order to meet the requirements for Citizenship. Please refer to the table below to see what tests you should choose depending on the provider and what level you need to pass at. If you are unsure which test to book, please get in touch with us as it is easy to book the wrong one which then won’t be accepted by UK Visas and Immigration.

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The Life in the UK test is only available in Cyprus and the UK.

To book to take the test in Cyprus go to Life in the UK Test – GOV.UK. As part of the registration process, you will be asked if you are a member of HM Forces on an overseas assignment and you will be asked to input the BFPO number which is 53. When you then book an appointment, it will only show you the appointments available in Cyprus. There is usually only one test date a month. For further information you will need to contact the AEC in Episkopi on 0357 2596 2589.

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To return to the UK to take the test go to  Life in the UK Test – GOV.UK to book a test at a location to suit you.

After the test

When you have completed the test, you will be given your result verbally along with your unique reference number (URN). Your URN is your unique reference for your test result and must be quoted in all correspondence with the Home Office in regard to the test result. Your URN is unique for every test taken and can be found in your LitUK account.

If your child has been born during your current overseas assignment you should follow the following steps as soon as possible.

One parent is British or has ILR/settlement – the child has been born British and can apply for a British passport through the normal procedures. Please speak to your unit for all information. DO NOT make a passport application online. Your unit should refer to 2017DIN01-117 for all information.

Neither parents are British or have ILR/settlement – the child has not been born British but has an entitlement to be registered as a British Citizen. You need to complete the form at this link.

Select the following option

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The cost of the application will be reimbursed by the unit as outlined in 2015DIN01-130 ‘Family Migration Rules for UK Armed Forces family members who are Non-British’

You should firstly read the information about children’s eligibility for Citizenship at this link. DO NOT presume that just because one parent has become a British Citizen, the children will be eligible. If in doubt, please contact the F&C Team on fcsupport@aff.org.uk

Please note – when completing the form DO NOT put a UK postcode or any reference to the UK, put the BFPO address only.

Once you have paid for your application you will be provided with information about the next steps. You will be given a checklist of required documents which will include an address of where to send them.

Unfortunately, it is still necessary to post documents to the UK when making an application for Citizenship overseas. However, you are not required to post original documents.

Submitting passports and BRPs

You SHOULD NOT post your original passport and/or BRP to the UK. The checklist states that the passport should be original, but the Home Office has agreed to accept certified copies of passports from both soldiers and spouses on an overseas assignment. Please speak to your unit to obtain a certified copy.

Document returns

Documents submitted with the paper application will not be returned until the application has been processed. If you have submitted original documents and require them back prior to assignment you can contact the F&C team, but it may take up to 3 months for these to be returned.

Submitting biometrics

Once your documents have been received you should be sent a letter asking you to arrange an appointment to have your biometrics taken at the nearest Visa Application Centre. If the letter asks you to have your biometrics taken in the UK, you will need to contact the address given on the letter or get in touch with the F&C team. Children under the age of 6 do not need to provide fingerprints but must have a digital photograph taken of their face.

Presuming your application is successful, you will receive a letter informing you of this. The letter will explain that you will be contacted by the nearest Consulate/High Commission with an invitation to attend a ceremony. You will receive your certificate at the ceremony. You are not a British Citizen until you have attended the ceremony.

It can take up to 12 weeks after you have received your letter informing you that your application has been successful before receiving a letter inviting you to your ceremony. This is because of the length of time it takes for the certificate to be sent to the Consulate/High Commission. If you have not received a letter inviting you to a ceremony within 12 weeks, then follow the guidance on the letter which will explain what you must do.

Once you have your certificate you can apply for a British passport though your unit. Please see information below about passport applications.

Children are not required to attend a Citizenship ceremony. Their certificate will be sent directly to your address.

Refer to the guidance on our page for EU nationals.

Click here for information on how to contact UKVI regarding Citizenship applications.

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05   British passports

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All Service personnel and members of the civilian component and their dependants, regardless of their nationality, who are required to travel on official duty to, or are assigned to, a country that requires a valid passport, are to be provided with one at public expense.

Since April 2013 it has been a requirement for all applicants for a first 10-year passport to attend an interview in the UK. Soldiers are now exempt from this requirement but spouses are not. Therefore, you cannot be granted a full passport until you are posted back to the UK and can attend an interview.

However, it is possible to be granted a passport for the duration of your overseas assignment. Your soldiers unit will need to provide the Passport Office with a letter to confirm the dates of the overseas assignment when your application for a passport is submitted. It is important that  you request that this is done at the time of application otherwise it is likely your passport will only be granted for 6 months and you may have to pay again to renew it. This process is not outlined in the DIN above, if your unit require further confirmation of this they should contact the Regional Command Family Support Team at RC-Pers-FamSp-0Mailbox@mod.gov.uk.

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