Visa FAQs

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Contents

01   Why does my ILR BRP have an expiry date of 31 December 2024? (Update added on 11 March 2020)

If you make an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), you are likely to only be given an expiry date up to December 2024 instead of the usual 10 years.

We spoke to our contacts within the Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) team who said: “We are required by the EU to restrict BRPs which do not incorporate the next generation of encryption technology to a validity date of 31 December 2024. The UK intends to introduce the new technology in due course.

“Any card restricted to 31 December 2024, which is still rightfully held on 1 July 2024, will be replaced free of charge, with the remainder of the 10-year period initially expected being issued on a new BRP. This means that anyone who has paid a fee in expectation of receiving 10-year evidence of settled status will still do so but it will be spread over two BRPs.

“The date restriction does not change the entitlements of the rightful holder to work, access services/benefits or travel. The rightful holder still has settled status.

“The exact process for providing replacement BRPs to applicants in this position has yet to be determined. Therefore, we recommend that applicants study the guidance made available by the Government prior to the expiry of their BRP to establish the steps they need to take in replacing their permit.”

We will provide a further update once we have more information.

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02   What can I do if I don’t meet the Minimum Income Requirement (MIR) through my salary?

1. What other income can I use?

For full details of all non-employment income which is accepted please click here and scroll to section 6.

2. Can I use savings?

You need to have £16,000 in cash savings to start with. You then need to work out the difference between the income requirement and your current salary, then multiply this by 5 as this is the length of the visa your spouse will receive (see example below). The cash savings must have been held by the applicant, their partner, or both jointly for at least the 6 months prior to the date of application. For further information about using cash savings click on the link above.

Example: soldier earns £20,000 and has 1 child. The minimum income requirement is £22,400 so he has an income shortfall of £2, 400 per year.

The savings required would be:
£2,400 x 5 = £12,000 + £16,000 = £28,000

3. Why are my Service benefits and allowances not able to be included?

It has long been an argument that soldiers should be able to include their additional non-salaried benefits (such as low-cost housing) within the calculation for meeting the income requirement. To calculate how much extra your salary is worth if you take into account these benefits, click here. To date this argument has not been accepted by the Home Office although it is apparently being discussed as part of a wider consideration of the income threshold.

4. Can I bring my spouse to the UK without my children so that he/she can get a job?

Yes, this is an accepted method of overcoming the situation. The joint income can then be combined to meet the MIR for your children. Be aware that there will need to be evidence of the MIR being met for 6 months prior to the application submission. Your children will therefore require a safe place to stay for at least 9-12 months. It is important that the application for your spouse makes it clear that you have children but that you are not bringing them with you. For further information contact the F&C team.

5. Will it help if I bring my children into the UK at separately?

No, you need to meet the minimum income for each person you are applying for and each person who already has a limited leave visa. So, if your spouse and one child are already in the UK on limited leave visas, you will need to be earning £24,800 to bring your second child into the UK.

6. Can I get another job in the UK?

This is a possible solution if you seek permission from your CofC. However, if you have any breaks in your additional job due to deployment/exercises, this will affect your total salary for the previous 6 months. So you may have to work for more than 6 months to meet the MIR.

7. Can I use financial support from a third party?

Third party support (essentially financial assistance from a friend or family member) can only be used when it has been proven that there are exceptional circumstances in your case which need to be taken into account. The decision maker will not consider the evidence of third party support if they do not think there are exceptional circumstances, so you would firstly need to prove the exceptional circumstances.

Being a soldier and being separated from your spouse and child(ren) are not usually considered by decision makers to be exceptional circumstances. In most cases your application will be refused but you will then be given a chance to put your case in front of an independent judge at an immigration tribunal, through the appeals process.

8. How do I appeal and does it work?

AFF has assisted two soldiers with their appeals within the previous two years, both have been successful. In both cases the judges decided that separating the serving soldier from his wife and child would lead to ‘unjustifiably harsh consequences’ and therefore met the exceptional circumstances requirement. In both cases evidence was provided to show that the soldier could meet the income requirement through other credible sources, such as third-party support and prospective earnings of the partner.

Although there is no guarantee that all appeals will be successful, it does appear that when put in front of a judge, the exceptional circumstances argument for applications from families of soldiers is a strong one.

However, if you are going to make an application then you need to fully understand the process and the level of risk:

  • The application currently costs £1,523 per person including children (not including associated costs such as the appointment, TB tests etc).
  • You will need to provide a lot of supporting documentation to try to prove that the exceptional circumstances are met within the initial application.
  • It is still likely however that the application will be refused and you will be given 28 days to appeal.
  • You will need to make an online appeal for each refusal within 28 days. Each appeal will cost £140.
  • It is likely to be at least a year before you given a date to attend a hearing to appeal the refusal in front of an independent judge.
  • In most cases it will also not be possible to apply for a visit visa for your family during this time as it is likely that the Home Office will not believe that your family are only coming for a visit.
  • If the appeal is not successful you will not receive a refund.
  • If the appeal is successful it can take a further 6 months for the Home Office to actually issue the visa to your family!
9. What can AFF do to support me with the appeal?
  • The AFF F&C Specialist can provide advice on the visa applications for your family, including advice on the supporting documentation and the application process. However you will be expected to make the application yourself, and to gather and submit the supporting documents.
  • She is able to assist with the notice of appeal and statements of additional grounds.
  • She is able to talk you through the appeals process and assist with preparing the witness statement and the bundle of documents that will have to be lodged.
  • She is not able to officially represent you at an appeal and there is no guarantee that she will be able to attend the tribunal with you.
  • If you choose not to engage a solicitor, you will have to be prepared to represent yourself. You will need to fully understand the requirements of the rules and the exceptional circumstances under which you are applying. You will need to understand and remember what supporting documents you have in your evidence bundle, so that you can quickly and accurately respond to the judge’s questions. The F&C Specialist can talk you through this.

If you do not meet the MIR to bring your family to the UK and you wish to make an application, please contact the F&C Specialist on fcsupport@aff.org.uk

10. What else is AFF doing?

This issue has been high on AFF’s agenda over the past few years and has been raised repeatedly at high level meetings with senior Command, with ministers and with the Prime Minister. AFF has also contributed to a Times article about the issue and has given evidence on the effect of the requirement to the Parliamentary Defence Select Committee.

 

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03   Can I apply for ILR even though I haven’t spent 60 months in the UK? I didn’t enter the UK until a few months after my 5 year visa was issued.

Yes you can. Unlike the ‘civilian’ rules, the Armed Forces rules do not require that the 60 months is spent in the UK, only that you have spent 60 months on that visa. This is so that all time spent on overseas assignments is counted as residence in the UK, but it also applies to any time spent in your home country prior to joining the soldier.

However, if you have spent a substantial amount of time out of the UK and not for Service reasons, you should contact the F&C team as it may be advisable to provide some explanation for the absences. Good reasons could include time spent overseas in connection with the applicant’s or their partner’s work, holidays, training or study. The reason why this is important is because your caseworker will have to establish if you have a genuine and subsisting relationship with your partner. In some circumstances it could be considered that your relationship is not genuine and subsisting if you have spent a lot of time apart. In these circumstances you will need to evidence how you have kept in touch, either through visits or frequent communication.

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04   Can I come to the UK on a visit visa and then apply to remain here permanently as the spouse of a Service person?

To apply to remain within the Armed Forces immigration rules you must be on a visa (or with entry clearance) that was issued for more than six months. You must also meet the minimum income requirement and the English language requirement.

Warning – if you enter the UK on a visit visa with the intention of remaining in the UK permanently, then you are not a genuine visitor and have essentially made false representations to enter the UK. Making false representations or seeking entry for a purpose not specified by your entry clearance, can affect your ability to enter the UK if you are stopped at the border and may affect any future applications to enter.

If you are in the UK on a visit visa, your only option, if you wish to remain here, is to apply under the wider Appendix Family Migration (FM) rules which allows for the caseworker to consider whether there are ‘exceptional circumstances’ in the case. These exceptional circumstances are known as para Ex.1.

If you have a British child, then the caseworker will assess that there are exceptional circumstances and will grant leave under para Ex.1.

If you don’t have a British child, then the caseworker has to assess if there would be insurmountable obstacles to family life continuing out of the UK.

What are insurmountable obstacles?

“’Insurmountable obstacles’ means very significant difficulties which would be faced by the applicant or their partner in continuing their family life together outside the UK and which could not be overcome or would entail very serious hardship for the applicant or their partner.”

Does the fact that the sponsor is a soldier mean that there are insurmountable obstacles?
It appears that the Home Office is considering that there are insurmountable obstacles in some cases, probably because if the soldier is still within his first four years he is unable to return to the home country to be with his family because of his minimum commitment period. However, we don’t know how many cases have been successful and how many are being refused. It is very much dependent on the caseworker’s assessment.

How long is it taking these applications to be considered?
On average it is taking up to 18 months for an application to be processed.

What is my immigration status during this time?
If you make an application prior to the six months’ leave expiring, then the conditions of the visa you were on continue – so you are not illegally in the UK. However, the conditions of a visit are that you are not entitled to work, to study, to open a bank account and may face difficulty if you need medical treatment. You are also not able to join or accompany your soldier on an overseas assignment if you do not have the correct visa to re-enter the UK.

Am I entitled to live in SFA with a visit visa?
No, the Unit F&C guide states: A spouse / partner / children travelling on a standard visitor visa will not be entitled to accompanied status or occupancy of Service Family Accommodation (SFA). SP should not be allowed to occupy SFA until the SP can prove to the unit that they have the correct entry visa and not a visitor visa.

If a visa is granted, what will I get?
You will receive a visa for 2.5 years on a 10-year route to settlement. You will need to re-apply for a visa every 2.5 years (at a current cost of £1,033 per application) until you have been in the UK for 10 years, at which point you will be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). You should be aware that whilst you are on the 10-year partner route, your time out of the UK, if you are posted overseas, will not count as residence in the UK. You are able to switch onto the shorter Armed Forces route once you meet the minimum income and other requirements. This will give you a visa for five years which you won’t need to renew until you apply for ILR.

What happens if the visa is refused?
You are likely to be served with a Notice to Remove and will be given Immigration Bail. If you don’t leave the UK within 7 days, you will face removal, which could prevent you from re-entering the UK for 10 years.

How do I apply for the visa to remain?
You will need to apply online at www.gov.uk/government/publications/apply-to-extend-your-stay-in-the-uk-form-flrfp
You will be applying on the 10-year partner route. Supply as much information as you are able. AFF is unable to provide supporting letters.

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05   How can I get my passports returned quickly from UKVI?

You should click here and complete the form. It should take approximately 10 working days. You may have to withdraw your application. If you have applied for visa application within the UK only the applicant is required to provide their passport. The sponsor (serving person) is not required to send in their passport.

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06   Do I need to apply for ILR if I have ILE?

Applicants who are granted Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE) should have no time restrictions on their stay in the UK, that is, they can stay indefinitely. ILE carries the same entitlement as ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ (ILR) which is issued to those who have already travelled to the UK. Anyone who has ILE does not have to apply for ILR when in the UK.

Indefinite leave will not expire. But because it has been issued overseas it will have a ‘validity date’ on the visa. In cases of ILE, the ‘validity date’ on the visa should match the expiry date on the passport.

However, the problem with ILE is that many employers and government officials do not understand or recognise it and a number of spouses have had problems trying to seek employment or convince their employer that their ILE hasn’t expired.

If you wish to work in the UK and you have a valid visa on an expired passport, you will need to transfer this to a BRP.  See below for information.

There is a further option of applying for citizenship if you are eligible and this is something you are interested in doing. A citizenship application costs £1,330 but you would save the BRP costs. Click here and go to ‘section 6 – spouses’ for further information and guidance.

 

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07   My passport has expired. Do I need to get my visa transferred to my new passport or a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)?

You can’t transfer your visa to your new passport if you are in the UK. Instead, you’ll need to apply for a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). A BRP is a separate document and will replace the visa you had in your old passport. A BRP card will cost £229 if you have indefinite leave. Click here to make a BRP application.

You don’t have to get your visa transferred to a BRP in order to travel, you just need to ensure you travel with your expired passport. However, if you wish to work in the UK and you have a valid visa on an expired passport, you will need to transfer this to a BRP. Click here for further information, click on Employment.

Alternatively, there is a further option of applying for citizenship if you are eligible and this is something you are interested in doing. A citizenship application costs £1,330 but you would save the BRP costs. Click here for further information on citizenship.

Soldiers: speak to your unit to have your exempt stamp transferred. Your unit should consult the ‘PS4 (A) unit guide to supporting non-British nationals’ available on Dii. Para 4 and Annex A of the guide provides information.

 

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08   Why does my BRP have an expiry date even though I have ILR?

BRPs are the same as passports in that they have an expiry date, but this doesn’t mean that your status in the UK will expire.

Adult BRPs should be issued for 10 years, children’s for five years. You will need to apply to replace the BRP if it has expired.  This can be done using the form BRP(RC).

If your BRP has an expiry date of 31 December 2024, please click here for further information.

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09   Can I spend more than two years outside the UK if I have ILR?

You won’t lose your Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after two years outside the UK if your spouse or partner is a member of the UK Armed Forces and you’ve joined them on an overseas posting. You are advised to provide evidence of the overseas assignment on your return.

If you have not been out of the UK on assignment, you will need to apply for a returning resident visa.

You won’t get a Returning Resident visa unless you’re also able to show what exceptional personal circumstances have led to you being out of the country for this long.

You must provide enough evidence to show:

  • your strong family ties to the UK
  • you lived in the UK most of your life
  • your current circumstances and why you’ve lived outside the UK

Find further guidance at www.gov.uk/returning-resident-visa

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10   Can I bring my parents to the UK to live with me?

UKVI guidance has confirmed that anyone who hopes to bring an adult dependant relative to the UK to join them indefinitely must meet the following requirements:

The relative must:

  • require long-term personal care as a result of age, illness or disability
  • be unable to receive the required level of care in the country where they are living
  • have no one in their country that can provide that care, or it is unaffordable

The sponsor/soldier:

Should be able to prove that they can adequately maintain, accommodate and care for the relative.

To apply, you will need to provide evidence:

  • in support of the application
  • of the family relationship
  • that the applicant requires long-term personal care
  • that they are unable to make arrangements for the required level of care in the country where they are living
  • of adequate maintenance, accommodation and care in the UK, and sponsor undertaking.

The rules are now so tough that it is thought only a handful of cases have succeeded since they were introduced. AFF is unable to offer advice on these applications; you should seek advice from a registered and reputable advisor.

Find further guidance here.

The only other option for most adult relatives is to come over on a visit visa. Further information can be found here (click on option 9).

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11   Do I have to be married to bring my partner to the UK?

What is the definition of a partner?

  • Spouse
  • Civil partner
  • Fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner
  • A person who has been living together with the applicant in a relationship akin to a marriage or civil partnership for at least two years prior to the date of the application.

If they don’t meet the definition of a partner, then you have two options:

Coming to the UK as a fiancé(e) to get married and remain here

Your partner will come over on a fiancée visa, which will be granted for six months but which costs the same as a full settlement visa. You will be required to show evidence that you intend to get married during this six month period. Once you are married, your partner will then need to apply for a visa under the Armed Forces rules. Refer to the ‘Visa to enter’ section for further information.

Coming to the UK on a Marriage Visit Visa to get married only

This visa allows your partner to get married in the UK, but they will need to leave the UK after six months.  Once back in the home country, your partner will need to apply for a settlement visa to come to the UK. Click here for further information.

How do I get married in the UK?

It’s important that you read the information here.

If you do not have a marriage visitor visa or family visa:

You can still give notice of your intention to get married or form a civil partnership but the immigration authorities at the Home Office will be told.

The Home Office might:

  • ask questions about you and your relationship – if this happens you may need to wait up to 70 days before getting married or forming a civil partnership
  • decide not to approve your notice – if this happens you cannot get married or form a civil partnership in the UK

What if my partner is already in the UK on a different visa?

As long as your partner has a valid visa issued for more than six months, then it is possible to switch onto the Armed Forces rules. However, you have to either be married or have been living together for the previous two years. For information on how to switch onto the Armed Forces rules, click here.

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12   I am a serving soldier, how do I get my exempt stamp transferred to my new passport?

The unit guide to supporting non-British nationals provides the relevant guidance for the unit.

Passport Endorsement SP. When you are accepted into Regular Service or have your Country of Origin (CoO) passport renewed, your unit administration office must carry out the immigration control actions at Annex A, this includes explaining the contents of Appendix 1 and giving you a copy of Appendix 1.

Once the Home Office (HO) Armed Forces Team (AFT) at UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) receive your CoO passport and unit letter they will write to you to confirm the conditions of the endorsement.

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13   My spouse is coming to the UK, I need an address for the application form, when can I apply for SFA?

‘The Unit guide to supporting non-British nationals’ link says as follows at para 30:

Accommodation. The entitlement and eligibility to occupy service accommodation is contained in JSP 464 Tri-Service Accommodation Regulations (TSARs). You can apply for Service Family Accommodation (SFA) during or after Phase 2 training (depending on the length of the course). If possible, you should have an address for your spouse/partner to record on their visa application form.

Accommodation – visa status. Your spouse/partner/children should have a valid Leave to Enter visa. A spouse / partner / children travelling on a standard visitor visa will not be entitled to accompanied status or occupancy of SFA. You should not be allowed to occupy SFA until you can prove to your unit that your spouse/partner / children have the correct entry visa, not a visitor visa. Occupancy may be granted if you have copy of the letter sent to the applicants giving 30 days to enter the UK and you can provide travel details.

Process for applying for Service Family Accommodation (SFA)

For personnel bringing families from their country of origin, the recommended step by step process for applying for SFA is below.

  • The Service Person (SP) submits e1132 application prior to submission of visa application.
  • The SP ticks visa required box on e1132 – this invokes an automatic deferment of 14 weeks from acceptance of offer by SP to Move In date.
  • If the visa application is confirmed by UKVI within that time, the SP can speak to Amey Occupancy Services Team (OST) and, if SP provides proof of visa acceptance, bring forward Move In date.
  • If the visa application is delayed, the SP should speak to Amey OST and explain circumstance: OST can then reschedule the Move In appointment. Depending on availability of SFA to house other entitled families, the OST will decide whether to reschedule the Move In date or to offer another property once the visa has been confirmed.
  • What should SP do if they have concerns?
  • The SP should be able to approach RAO or UWO who can advise them. The SP can also speak to OST Helpdesk for advice – anyone on OST can advise process.
  • The SP is responsible for managing their e1132 application, and need to keep OST updated with what is happening with the visa application, with evidence where available. The RAO or UWO can assist comms with OST.
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14   Complaints procedure

If you have been waiting for a long time for your visa to be processed, you can make a complaint. Find everything you need to know here.

The quickest way is to send an email to complaints@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk with all details. You should receive a response within 20 days.

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