Visa FAQs

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01   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 more than 180 days 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 absence.

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02   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. They also cannot travel out of the UK, so if your soldier is posted overseas you are not able to accompany him.

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
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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03   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.

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

No. The UKBA website says:

Applicants who are granted Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE) at a visa issuing post 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 by the UK Border Agency to those who have already travelled to the UK. Anyone who has ILE does not have to apply for ILR when in the UK.

Although indefinite leave, by definition, will not expire, the Entry Clearance Officer is unable to issue a visa to those who meet the criteria for ILE without putting a ‘validity date’ on the visa. In cases of ILE, the ‘validity date’ on the visa should match the expiry date on the passport. When the applicant gets a new passport, they can apply to UK Border Agency for a transfer of conditions into their new passport. They do not need to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

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. It can be easier in such cases to apply for a Biometric Residents Permit (BRP) instead. See below for information.

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05   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.

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.

Spouses and children: you can carry your expired passport with you whenever you travel, or you can choose to apply for the visa to be transferred to the new passport. Click here to find details on how to do this.

You will receive a Biometric Residents Permit (BRP).

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.

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06   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).

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07   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. It costs £324 to apply.

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

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08   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.

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09   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 you haven’t been living with your partner for the previous two years, 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.

Migrants who wish to give notice at a non-designated register office will need to provide evidence that they are not subject to immigration control, that they meet other existing requirements for giving notice e.g. evidence of nationality, name and surname and date of birth, and that they are free to marry.

What if my partner is 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.

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

PS4 (A) unit guide to supporting non-British nationals provides the relevant guidance for the unit.

“4. Unit Responsibility. When a non-UK passport holder has been accepted into Regular service or have their Country of Origin (CoO) passport renewed[1], the unit must carry out the immigration control actions at Annex A. Once the CoO passport has been received, the Armed Forces Team (AFT) at UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) will write to the SP to confirm the conditions of the endorsement and will insert the following endorsement in the SP CoO passport:

“The holder is not subject to any condition or limitation on the period of permitted stay in the United Kingdom whilst serving as a regular in HM Forces until date of discharge”

[1] Exempt status remains valid if the passport has lapsed, Unit are to advise SP that a lapsed passport will restrict personal travel. Units are to ensure that CoO passports remain in-date for the duration of any operational tour.

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11   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’ says as follows at para 30

  1. Accommodation. The entitlement and eligibility to occupy service accommodation is contained in JSP 464 Tri-Service Accommodation Regulations (TSARS). Units should note that SP can apply for SFA  during or after their Phase 2 training (depending on the length of the course). The spouse/children should have a valid leave to enter visa under Immigration Rules Appendix Armed Forces on a five year route to settlement. and if possible, SP should have an address for a spouse/partner to record on their visa application form. 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 the spouse/partner / children have proved to the unit that they have the correct entry visa and not a visitor visa. Occupancy by the SP may be granted if they have copy of the letter sent to the applicants giving 30 days to enter the UK and they can provide travel details.  In this case the family passports must be checked by the unit as soon as possible on arrival to ensure the correct visa has been issued to allow the family to occupy the SFA.

*See the Guidance for Accompanied Status in JPS 752

DIO has informed AFF that soldiers are able to apply for SFA up to 16 weeks prior to the expected date of arrival in the UK of family members.

There should be at least three months from the date of the offer to the move-in date to allow the visa to be processed and to ensure that the soldier does not move into the SFA without entitlement.

There is no requirement for a copy of the leave to enter or visa documentation to be produced as part of the SFA application process.

Click here for a link to a flow chart outlining the process.

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12   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 with all details. You should receive a response within 20 days.

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