Visas

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

Contents

01   Visas to enter the UK

Five-year limited leave to enter  (settlement) visa

  1. The main requirements
  2. How do I apply for a visa?
  3. What supporting documents do I need?
  4. Biometrics and submitting supporting documents
  5. How long will the application take?
  6. 30 day ‘vignettes’ and Biometric residence permits

1.  The main requirements

To be eligible for a visa to enter the UK under Armed Forces rules you must meet the following requirements:

  • Your sponsor is
    • A member of HM Forces or
    • Has ILR or limited leave following discharge
  • You are both over 18
  • You are
    • Married or in a civil partnership or
    • The fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner of the sponsor*or
    • You have been living together in a relationship for at least 2 years at some point prior to the date of the application

*For information on whether it is best to get married in your home country or in the UK click here and select number 9.

  • Minimum income requirement

The MIR applies to all soldiers regardless of nationality who wish to bring their non-UK national spouses and children to the UK. There are no discretions in place for the Armed Forces.

Evidence of gross annual income* of at least £18,600 for 6 months.
An additional £3,800 for the first child** and an additional £2,400 for each additional child.

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

** British Children /EEA nationals/ and those with ILR or applying for ILE on entry to the UK will not need to meet the financial requirement.

For further details about the minimum income requirement, including alternative methods for meeting it, visit the Visa FAQs page for further information

  • English language requirement

Further information can be found at this link. If you are taking a test you must ensure it is on the list of approved tests above.

  • Suitability requirement

If you have previously been refused a visa to the UK, have been an overstayer or have had a criminal conviction in the UK you should contact the F&C team for further guidance

  • Requirement to have a subsisting relationship

You are expected to provide evidence to show that your relationship is subsisting during your time apart. This is particularly important if you have been apart for a long time. If you do not provide enough evidence your application is likely to be refused. See section 4 below for suggested supporting evidence.

  • Accommodation requirement

You are expected to provide evidence of suitable accommodation for the whole family. DIO policy allows for a provisional address to be allocated in advance of a visa being granted. However, it is not necessary to have an address in order to make an application as long as the unit letter confirms that accommodation will be available on arrival. See the Visa FAQs page for further information.

  • TB test requirement

Applicants from some countries will also be required to take a TB test prior, as part of the application process. Further information can be found at this link.

2.  How do I apply for a visa?

Important: You cannot enter the UK on a visit visa if you are planning to settle as you will not be able to switch onto a dependant’s visa once in the UK. For further information click here and select number 2.

Important: You must travel to the UK within 30 days of the date you indicated on the application form as the intended date of travel. If you cannot travel within this time you will need to apply for a replacement biometric card. Refer to section 4 below for more information.

  1. All first-time applicants need to apply for limited leave to enter using the online form.
  2. On the ‘confirm your visa type’ page, scroll down and select Partner of a current or former member of UK Armed Forces (HM forces) or ‘Fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner of a serving member of UK Armed Forces (HM Forces) under Appendix Armed Forces’
  3. You will also have to complete an ‘Appendix 2 AF’ 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.

Children

Make separate applications for children accompanying you who are not British. You will need to select the option for ‘Child of a current or former member of UK Armed Forces (HM forces)’. If the child is from a previous relationship, please see the information at number 9 at this link

3. What supporting documents do I need?

It is very important that you provide as much evidence as you can of your personal circumstances.

A.  Evidence that the financial requirement is met

If you are using your salary (and/or your partners salary) to evidence the financial requirement is met then you must provide the evidence below. If you are using alternative sources to evidence the requirement then you will need to click here for further guidance or email fcsupport@aff.org.uk

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. Your unit will have a template letter that they can use, this can be found in the ‘Unit Guide for Supporting Non-UK nationals’

  • 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

c) Six months of 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,

B.  Evidence that the English language requirement is met
C.  Evidence of your accommodation in the UK

If you have not been allocated a quarter then the unit letter above must state that an SFA has been applied for. If you are having problems evidencing your proposed or actual accommodation then get in touch with us.

D.  Evidence of marriage
  • If married or in a civil partnership, a recognised certificate is all that is required.
  • If you are coming to the UK on a fiancée visa to get married and then settle here, you will need to provide evidence that you intend to get married, evidence that you have met and that you intend to live together.
  • if you are not married but are coming to the UK as an unmarried/same sex partner, then you will need to provide evidence that you have lived together for 2 years and have had a genuine relationship akin to marriage. (The 2-year period does not have to have been completed immediately preceding the date of application if, for example, the couple are currently living apart for work reasons in order to meet the financial requirements of the rules, provided that the relationship continues to be genuine and subsisting at the date of application)
  • If you are divorced you will also need to provide the decree absolute or a certificate of an overseas divorce which is recognised in the UK. For further guidance click here
E.  Evidence of a subsisting relationship

This is particularly important if you have been separated for a while.

  • Evidence of contact during the period of separation e.g. emails, letters, phone statements, any evidence that the sponsor has returned home to visit the applicant
  • Evidence of financial support from the sponsor, e.g. money transfer slips or bank statements showing money being transferred to cover the period of separation
  • Evidence to explain any gaps in communication/reason for delay in joining spouse in UK: if the soldier has been on operations/exercise or other training, it would be advisable to get a unit letter to confirm this
  • Statements from applicant and sponsor: if there has been a long separation, it would be advisable to include a covering letter or statement detailing your relationship in chronological order; back up any statement you make with supporting evidence. For a template covering letter click here.

4.  Biometrics and submitting supporting documents

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:

  • 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 may also need a copy of the bio data page from the passport or travel document of the person you are dependent upon and evidence of the current UK immigration status for the person you are dependent upon (if they are already in the UK).

You should check the process for submitting the rest of the supporting documents using your visa application centre website. There are usually 3 options for submitting the documents. If you cannot find the relevant information please contact us. It is very important that you follow the guidance for submitting documents carefully. After submission you will receive a receipt and checklist that will act as acknowledgement for the documents you have submitted.

  1. upload your documents yourself at home if you have access to a scanner or
  2. take the original supporting documents when you have your biometric appointment and use the Document Scanning Assistance facility for an extra fee or
  3. supporting documents can also be submitted by the sponsor in the UK either in person or by post for an additional charge

5.  How long will the application take?

The majority of settlement applications are decided within 12 weeks. However you are strongly advised not to make travel arrangements until you have received the visa.

6.  30 day ‘vignettes’ and Biometric Residence Permits

Please read the letter you receive granting your leave carefully. Successful applicants will be issued with a vignette in their passport which is valid for 30 days from the date you indicated as your intended travel date in your visa application. The vignette is proof only of your permission to enter the UK and will allow you to travel to the UK.

If you do not travel to the UK within this 30 day period, your visa will expire and you will need to apply for a replacement biometric residence permit. You can do this by selecting ‘BRP Vignette Transfer’ from the list at this link. You will then need to attend the visa application centre again. You will have to pay a fee for this.

You must collect your biometric residence permit within ten days of arrival in the UK from the post office branch detailed in your decision letter. If you do not collect your BRP within ten days of arrival in the UK you may be subject to a financial penalty or cancellation of your leave.

For full information click here.

What length of permit will I get?

Whichever is the shortest period of

  • Five years or
  • The remaining duration of the sponsors enlistment or
  • The remaining duration of limited leave if the soldier was not eligible for ILR on discharge or
  • In the case of a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner, 6 months.

The visas will not enable you to apply for public funds but you will be able to work (unless you are a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner).
28 days before your visa is due to expire, and as long as you are still the partner of the same member of HM Forces, you will be eligible to apply for ILR

If you are a fiancé(e) /proposed civil partner you will need to apply for limited leave after you are married or have had your civil partnership. Refer to the leave to remain section.

If you are not issued a visa for five years you should refer to the ‘Visa error corrections‘ section.

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02   Visas to remain in UK

Pre-2013 visas

The guidance below is for anyone with a visa that was applied for and paid for after 1 Dec 2013.

Anyone who had applied and paid for their visa prior to this date and who is looking to extend or apply for ILR should contact AFF’s F&C team with a copy of the visa.

If your visa has now expired, see the ‘Overstayers and discretionary leave’ section.

In this section:   

  • Limited leave to remain
  • Indefinite leave to remain
  • ILR under the Long residence rules

Limited leave to remain

Am I eligible?

Important: You cannot apply to remain under the Armed Forces rules if you have a visit visa or are in the UK without a valid visa.  

Limited leave to remain as the partner of a member of HM Forces will be granted if:

  • You have valid leave as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner for six months and were married within that six month period or
  • You have been granted leave on a 10 year route to settlement and wish to switch onto the Armed Forces rules or
  • You have married a soldier and you have leave to remain in the UK in a different immigration category (for example as a student), which was issued for more than six months* and
  • You meet the suitability requirements – see the ‘Main requirements’ section’
  • You meet the English language requirement – see the ‘Main requirements’ section
  • You meet the financial requirement – see the ‘Main requirements’ section
  • You are not in breach of immigration laws** – see the ‘Main Requirements’ section.

*If you have a work permit, you may wish to consider remaining on that visa as you may qualify for ILR in your own right sooner than as a spouse. Refer to the UKBA website for further information.

**If you are an ‘overstayer’ (i.e. you do not have a valid visa) you will need to make an application outside the rules. Refer to the section on ‘Overstayers and discretionary leave’.

How do I apply for a visa?

You need to complete the online form FLR(AF) at this link: visas-immigration.service.gov.uk/product/flr-af 

Under Category of Leave select the box which applies below

Apply as a partner or a child under Appendix Armed Forces

Select this category if you are a partner or child who did not hold entry clearance or limited leave to remain, issued before 30 November 2013, or you did not apply for leave to enter or remain before 1 December 2013, or you are switching into this category from a different category

  • I am applying as the partner or child of a foreign or Commonwealth serving or discharged member of HM Forces
  • I am applying as the partner or child of a serving British citizen or discharged member of HM Forces

Complete the rest of the form as instructed.

What evidence should I provide?

  • Passport of the applicant
  • 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 o
  • 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

(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 of accommodation – Such as a letter from DIO. (If you have not yet been allocated a quarter, then the letter from your unit should state that you are entitled to one and have applied).
  • English language certificate if required to have one www.gov.uk/uk-family-visa/knowledge-of-english
  • Marriage certificate or a civil partnership certificate
  • Evidence of divorce if previously married
  • Evidence of the soldiers immigration status in the UK
  • Evidence that the relationship is genuine and subsisting. If you have been living together on a different immigration route (such as a 10 year route or student visa) you will need to show evidence of cohabitation in the form of official letters addressed to you both.
  • Birth certificates of any children applying

How do I provide the evidence and my biometrics?

After paying for the application you will be directed to another site to make an appointment to have biometrics taken.  You will have the choice to scan and upload your documents prior to the appointment or you can take them with you and have them scanned on the day of the appointment, but this will cost more. Further information about the biometric appointment process can be found here https://www.ukvcas.co.uk/home-internal.  If you have problems with this service then please let us know.

What length of residence permit should I get?

Whichever is the shortest period of:

  • 5 years or
  • The remaining duration of the sponsors enlistment or
  • The remaining duration of limited leave if the soldier was  not eligible for ILR on discharge.

The permit will not enable you to apply for public funds but you will be able to work.

28 days before your permit is due to expire, and as long as you are still the partner of the same member of HM Forces and meet all the requirements, you will be eligible to apply for ILR.

*If you are not granted a permit for five years you should contact the F&C team for further information.

Indefinite leave to remain

Am I eligible?

ILR as a partner of HM Forces will be granted if:

  • You are in the UK
  • The soldier
    • has an exempt stamp and has completed five years’ service or
    • Is a British Citizen or
    • Has ILR following discharge
  • You meet the suitability requirements – see the ‘Main requirements section’
  • You meet the financial requirements – see the ‘Main requirements section’
  • You meet the Knowledge of language and life (KoLL) requirements – see the Citizenship page.
  • You are not in breach of immigration laws** – see the ‘Main requirements’ section
  • 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 ILR,  you just have to have had the visa for 5 years.

How do I apply?

You need to complete the online ET(AF) click here for the form and guide.

Under Category of Leave select the box which applies below

Apply as a partner or child under Appendix Armed Forces

Apply as a partner or child where:

  • the HM Forces member enlisted on or after 1 December 2013; or
  • the HM Forces member did not hold (and had not applied for) leave to enter or remain before 30 November 2013

– Of a British citizen member of HM Forces
– Of a foreign or Commonwealth member of HM Forces
– As a bereaved partner or child of a member of HM Forces
– The partner or child of a member of HM Forces who has been discharged

What evidence should I provide?

  • Passport of the applicant
  • 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 o
  • 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

(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 of accommodation – Such as a letter from DIO or rental agreements or mortgage paperwork if you own your own property.
  • English language certificate if required to have one www.gov.uk/english-language
  • Life in UK test certificate www.gov.uk/life-in-the-uk-test
  • Marriage certificate or a civil partnership certificate
  • Evidence of divorce if previously married
  • Evidence of the soldiers immigration status in the UK
  • Evidence of cohabitation, such as official letters addressed to you both
  • Birth certificates of any children applying

How do I provide the evidence and my biometrics?

After paying for the application you will be directed to another site to make an appointment to have biometrics taken.  You will have the choice to scan and upload your documents prior to the appointment or you can take them with you and have them scanned on the day of the appointment, but this will cost more. Further information about the biometric appointment process can be found here www.ukvcas.co.uk/home-internal.  If you have problems with this service then please let us know.

What happens if I cannot meet the requirements?

** If you cannot meet the financial requirements to apply for ILR please contact us.

Limited leave of 30 months will be granted instead in the following circumstances:

  • You cannot meet the suitability requirements
  • You cannot meet the KoLL requirements
  • The soldier has limited leave, not ILR, or has not served for five years.

**If you are an ‘overstayer’ (i.e. you do not have a valid visa), you will need to make an application outside the rules. Refer to the section on ‘Overstayers and discretionary leave’.

ILR under the long residence rules

If you have lived legally in the UK for 10 years, you may be eligible to apply under the long residence category for ILR instead of having to wait to apply as the spouse under the Armed Forces rules. Further information on these applications can be found here. This category would apply regardless of the nationality of the soldier.

You should read the guidance carefully as any time spent in the UK without a valid visa may result in your application being refused.

Important: unfortunately, under current rules, it is not possible to apply in this category if you have spent time on an accompanied overseas assignment as this is not recognised as residence in the UK.

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03   Visas during an overseas assignment

In this section
  • Pre-Dec 2013 visas
  • Post Dec 2013 visas
  • Unit payment of visas
  • Making an application from an overseas assignment
  • Am I eligible for Indefinite leave to Enter?
Pre-Dec 2013 visas

If you have a valid visa that was issued and paid for before 1 December 2013, please contact the F&C team for information on what visa you should be eligible for now.

You should not let your visa expire.

If you had a visa, which has now expired, you may have to make an application under Appendix Armed Forces for a five year visa. You should contact the F&C team if you are in this position. However, you should also consider if you are eligible to apply for citizenship under the Crown Service rules instead. See the Citizenship page.

Post- Dec 2013

If your first UK visa was applied for and paid for after 1 December 2013, you should have been granted a five-year visa.

You will be unable to apply for ILR until 28 days prior to the visa expiring. If you were only granted a visa for 2.5 years, you should contact the F&C team for information about a free extension.

Unit payment of visas

JSP 752 chap 10, section 13, serial 5 for clarification is the authority for payment of visas for dependants on an overseas assignment. This states:

“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. DIN 2012DIN01-146 contains further details”.

Spouses on overseas assignments should not let their visas expire. You are entitled to apply for a visa at public expense if it is due to expire before you are due to be posted back to the UK.

Making an application from an overseas assignment
  • If you have never had a visa to enter the UK then you will need to follow the guidance under ‘visas to enter UK and to join a soldier overseas’,  you should also read the ‘main requirements to enter and remain in the UK’ section.
  • If you have a visa which is due to expire you should contact us for guidance on what to apply for.
  • If you had a visa which has expired you should also contact us for guidance.
Am I eligible for Indefinite leave to Enter?

If you are under the new rules then you will not be able to apply for ILE until 28 days before your 5 year visa is due to expire. If you are under the old rules or do not have a 5 year visa then you should contact the f&C team.

Am I eligible?

Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE) as a partner of HM Forces will be granted if:

  • You are outside the UK
  • The soldier
    o    has an exempt stamp and has completed five years’ service or
    o    Is a British citizen or
    o    Has ILR following discharge
  • You meet the suitability requirements – see the ‘Main requirements section’
  • You meet the financial requirements – see the ‘Main requirements section’
  • You meet the Knowledge of language and life (KoLL) requirements – see the Citizenship page. Click here for further information
  • 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 Dec 2013).

What if I do not meet the main requirements?

Limited leave to enter of 30 months will be granted in the following circumstances only:

  • You cannot meet the KoLL requirements
  • The soldier has limited leave not ILR on discharge or has not served for five years

If you do not meet the suitability or financial requirements, contact the F&C team for further information.

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04   Visa error corrections

Errors to visas issued OUTSIDE the UK (including Biometric Residence Permits since July 2015)

Many spouses have incorrect visa/Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) endorsements (dates given) because they were assessed under civilian rules, not the Armed Forces rules, when they entered the UK.

If you have a visa that was issued outside the UK after 1 December 2013 for less than five years, then please send your passport or BRP to the following address with a recent passport photograph:

Entry Clearance Errors
Sheffield Visa Section
Vulcan House
4th Floor (Iron)
Millsands
Sheffield S3 8NU

Please note:

  • You should send your passports via special delivery so they can be tracked
  • You will not receive an acknowledgment letter
  • You should not plan to travel within three months
  • If you have not had any response within two to three months, you can contact the AFF F&C team who can ask for an update.

Alternatively, you can email Sheffield first at entryclearance.errors@fco.gov.uk to clarify that a free correction should be given. Send a scan of your visa or BRP and the following explanation:

“I applied for a visa under para 24 of Appendix Armed Forces as my spouse is a serving soldier. My visa was supposed to have been issued for five years under para 24(a)(i) but it was only issued for two and a half years. I would like a correction to the full five years.”  

The errors team should contact you within five working days to inform you whether an error has been made and to ask you to send in your passport.

The F&C team has one point of contact at Sheffield and relies on her to respond to our requests for updates. If you have been waiting for some time for a correction, we recommend that you contact the email address above in the first instance.

Errors to visas issued INSIDE the UK

If you think your visa issued inside the UK is incorrect, please contact the F&C team for assistance at fcsupport@aff.org.uk

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05   Overstayers and discretionary leave

Overstayers  

1. Spouses/children who previously held a visa under transition rules as the dependent of a serving soldier

Updated UKVI guidance has confirmed that it is still possible to apply to remain under the transition rules (Part 7) if you previously held a visa as the spouse/child of a soldier, even if your visa has now expired.

You can choose to apply for ILR or further leave. You should only consider applying for further leave if you cannot afford the price of the ILR application. You will still need to apply for ILR at some point in the future though.

To apply, follow the guidance below. You should also contact the F&C team for a template covering letter to go with your application.

To apply for further leave

  • Click here for the FLR(AF) form and guide
  • Section 2, tick the box for ‘limited leave as the partner or child of a Foreign or Commonwealth HM forces sponsor applying under transitional arrangements under Part 7 of the Immigration rules’
  • You can include any children aged under 18 on this form if they are applying as your dependants. Children aged over 18 are also eligible if they are still living at home and also have a valid dependants visa, but they must complete their own application form
  • Children who are British citizens, or who you are not applying for a visa for, should be included in section 3.12
  • You DO NOT need to meet the new financial requirement, but will need to provide evidence of finances – bank statements and payslips for the past three months should be enough evidence. Tick the box ‘Yes’ in 7.1A ‘are you applying in a category, which does not require you to meet a minimum income threshold’? Go to section 7B – Maintenance
  • You DO NOT need to meet the English language requirement in section 8 (it states this at the bottom of page 34).

To apply for ILR:

  • Click here for the SET(AF) form and guide. Tick the box on page 7, which states ‘partner or child of a foreign or Commonwealth member of HM Forces who is applying under Part 7 transitional arrangements’
  • Soldier must have served for five years, and must have been married for two years
  • You can include any children aged under 18 on this form if they are applying as your dependants. Children over 18 are also eligible if they are still living at home and also have a valid dependants visa, but they must complete their own application form
  • You DO NOT need to take the Life in UK test or meet the new English language requirement in section 5 of the form. At the bottom of page 20, after section 4, it states that those applying under ‘transitional arrangements’ should go to section 6 i.e. you DO NOT need to complete section 5
  • You do not need to meet the new financial requirement, but will need to provide evidence of finances as listed in section 12A of the form
  • You will also need to provide evidence that you have lived together for the previous two years as listed in section 12A of the form.

2.  Spouses who didn’t hold leave as a dependant but who have a British child:  

Immigration rules allow for spouses to remain in the UK as the parent of a British child. The guidance says as follows:

“Where a decision to refuse the application would require a parent or primary carer to return to a country outside the EU, the case must always be assessed on the basis that it would be unreasonable to expect a British Citizen child to leave the EU with that parent or primary carer.  

In such cases it will usually be appropriate to grant leave to the parent or primary carer, to enable them to remain in the UK with the child, provided that there is satisfactory evidence of a genuine and subsisting parental relationship.”

You will need to apply for leave using form FRL(FP) . You should contact the F&C team prior to making any application under this route.

  • Tick the box for applying on the basis of your family life as a partner (10-year route)
  • You won’t need to complete sections 8.
  • Complete all other sections
  • Ensure you provide the documents listed in 15.1-15.4.

You should be given a visa for two and a half years and will have to re-apply every two and a half years until you have been in the UK for another 10 years. At which point you will be eligible for ILR.

Switching onto Armed Forces rules
However, once you have been granted leave on this 10-year route, you may be able to switch onto the Armed Forces route. You will need to meet the main requirements – including the English Language and Minimum Income requirements and will need to make an application on form FLR(AF).

You should be granted a visa for five years and will be eligible to apply for ILR at the end of the five years. This is, therefore, a quicker and cheaper route to ILR.

For all information about switching, see the ‘Visas to remain in UK’  section.

3. Spouses who didn’t hold leave as a dependant and who don’t have any British children: 

You should contact the F&C team. You may be able to make an application to remain based upon your human rights, but it would depend upon how long you have been in the UK for and your family situation. We may need to signpost you to an immigration lawyer.

Discretionary leave

AFF is delighted to announce that after many years of pushing, a change has now been made to the immigration rules for spouses on discretionary leave visas, allowing them to apply for ILR.

If you have discretionary leave as a result of making an incorrect application for ILR after your soldier sponsor became a British Citizen, then you may be eligible to apply for ILR without having to wait for your visa to expire and without having to apply for a further grant of discretionary leave.

  • You will need to complete Form SET (AF). Tick the box on page 7 which states ‘partner or child of a British Citizen member of HM Forces applying under Part 8 transitional arrangements’.
  • You can include any children aged under 18 on this form if they are applying as your dependants. Children aged over 18 are also eligible if they are still living at home and also have a valid dependants visa, but they must complete their own application form
  • You  DO need to meet the Knowledge of language and life in UK (KoLL) requirement – click here for further information.
  • You DO NOT need to meet the new financial requirement but will need to provide evidence of finances as listed in section 12A of the form SET(AF)
  • You will also need to provide evidence that you have lived together for the previous 2 years as listed in section 12A of the form SET(AF).

Payment: 

If you are on your first discretionary leave visa, you are required to pay for the cost of the ILR application.

If you are on your second discretionary leave visa (i.e you have already spent three years or more on discretionary leave):

  • If you applied for ILR after your first three-year period and were granted another period of three years instead, then you are not required to pay for the cost of the ILR application
  • If you applied for further leave (FLR(O)) after your first three-year period, you will need to pay an additional fee in order to meet the settlement fee at the time of the original application.

Full details can be found here, page 11, but you are advised to contact the F&C team before making any application under this policy.

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06   Children's Applications

Leave to enter the UK: 

All children have to make a separate application to enter the UK even if they are travelling with a parent:

How do I apply for a visa?
See the ‘Visas to enter UK’ section.

What visa will my child get?
Limited leave to enter for 5 years will be granted if: 

  • Soldier served less than 5 years or discharged with limited leave
  • Spouse is on limited leave visa
  • Child is under 18 at the date of application
  • Is not leading an independent life
  • Meets the financial requirement – See ‘Main Requirements’ section.

The financial requirement does not need to be met for limited leave to enter in the following circumstances:

  • The spouse is also a serving soldier or
  • The soldier has sole responsibility for the child – see section below ‘Bringing children from previous relationships to the UK’
  • The spouse has died,

Supporting documents:
Financial requirement: For information about the supporting documents see the ‘Financial Requirement’ heading in the ‘Main Requirements’ section.

No financial requirement: only adequate maintenance and accommodation have to be proven i.e bank statements and payslips to prove regular income and a letter from DIO to prove you have suitable accommodation.
Also:

  • Passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Letter from unit to show length of service and run out date
  • If soldier has sole responsibility then the evidence to support this (see section ‘Bringing children from previous relationships to the UK’),

Indefinite Leave to enter will be granted if:
** The financial requirement does not need to be met if the child is eligible for ILE**

• The soldier:

  • has served five years or
  • is a British citizen or
  • discharged with ILR

• The spouse:

  • has ILR or
  • is also a soldier with five years’ service or
  • the soldier has sole responsibility for the child – see section ‘Bringing children from previous relationships to the UK’

• The child is under 18 at the date of application and
• Is not leading an independent life.

Supporting documents:

  • Bank statements and payslips to prove regular income
  • Letter from DIO to prove you have suitable accommodation
  • Passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Letter from unit to show length of service and run out date
  • If soldier has sole responsibility then the evidence to support this (see section below ‘Bringing children from previous relationships to the UK’).

Leave to remain in the UK (applications under new rules)

Limited leave to remain for five years will be granted if:

  • Soldier served less than five years or discharged with limited leave
  • Spouse is on limited leave visa
  • Child is under 18 at the date of application or if over 18 was last granted leave as the dependent of a soldier
  • Is not an overstayer
  • Is not leading an independent life
  • Meets the financial requirement (see the ‘Financial Requirement and Evidence’ heading in the ‘Main Requirements’ section).

The financial requirement does not need to be met for limited leave to enter in the following circumstances:

  • The spouse is also a serving soldier or
  • The soldier has sole responsibility for the child (or the child lives with soldier and soldier is a British Citizen or has served for five years) – see section ‘Bringing children from previous relationships to the UK’ or
  • The spouse has died.

How do I apply for a visa?

  • If applying with a parent, the child can be included on the same form
  • Apply using form FLR(AF)
  • In section 2 tick box ‘limited leave as the partner or chid of a British or foreign or Commonwealth HM Forces sponsor under Appendix Armed Forces’
  • Tick ‘yes’ in question 7.1A if you don’t have to meet the financial requirement and complete section 7B only. Tick ‘No’ if you do and complete section 7A.

Supporting documents: 

Financial requirement: see the ‘Financial Requirement’ heading in the ‘Main Requirements’ section.

No financial requirement: only adequate maintenance and accommodation have to be proven i.e bank statements and payslips to prove regular income and a letter from DIO to prove you have suitable accommodation.

Also:

  • Passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Letter from unit to show length of service and run out date
  • If soldier has sole responsibility then the evidence to support this (see section below ‘Bringing children from previous relationships to the UK’).

Indefinite leave to remain
** The financial requirement does not need to be met if the child is eligible for ILR**

• The soldier:

  • has served five years or
  • is a British citizen or
  • discharged with ILR

• The spouse:

  • has or is also applying for ILR or
  • is also a soldier with five years’ service or
  • the soldier has sole responsibility for the child – see section below ‘Bringing children from previous relationships to the UK’

• If over 18, meets the Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK requirement
• The child has limited leave as a dependent of a soldier
• The child is not an overstayer
• Is not leading an independent life.

How do I apply for a visa?

  • If applying with a parent, the child can be included on the same form
  • Complete form SET(AF)
  • Tick relevant box for application under Appendix Armed Forces.

Supporting documents:

  • Bank statements and payslips to prove regular income
  • Letter from DIO to prove you have suitable accommodation
  • Passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Letter from unit to show length of service and run out date
  • If soldier has sole responsibility then the evidence to support this (see section below ‘Bringing children from previous relationships to the UK’).

Bringing children from previous relationships to the UK

The following information was taken from the UKBA website. Further information can also be found at the following by clicking here. Click on Annex FM 3.2: children guidance.

What are the immigration rules?
The rules state that a child cannot normally go to live in the UK if one parent is living abroad, unless the sponsoring parent* in the UK has sole responsibility for the child, or if there are special reasons why the child should be allowed to join the parent in the UK. These special reasons would include cases where the parent in the home country is mentally or physically incapable of looking after the child. Wishing to bring the child to the UK because it offers a higher standard of living than their own country is not classed as a special reason.

* ‘parent’ includes a step-parent where the father or mother is dead, either the father or mother of an illegitimate child and, in certain circumstances, an adoptive parent.

What is ‘sole responsibility’?
A parent must be able to show that he/she has been solely responsible for exercising parental care over the child for a substantial period. If the sponsoring parent and child are separated, the child will normally be expected to have been in the care of the sponsoring parent’s relatives rather than the relatives of the other parent.

Important** An application should normally be refused if the child has been in the care of the other parent’s relatives and the other parent lives nearby and takes an active interest in the child’s welfare.

The following factors should be considered in assessing sole responsibility:

  • If the parents’ marriage / civil partnership is dissolved, which parent was awarded legal custody, which includes assumption of responsibility for the child?
  • If the sponsoring parent migrated to the UK, how long has the sponsoring parent been separated from the child?
  • If the sponsoring parent migrated to the UK, what were the arrangements for the care of the child before and after the sponsoring parent migrated?
  • If the sponsoring parent migrated to the UK, what has been/what is the sponsoring parent’s relationship with the child?
  • Has the sponsoring parent consistently supported the child, either by: direct personal care; or by regular and substantial financial remittances?
  • By whom, and in what proportions, is the cost of the child’s maintenance borne?
  • Who takes the important decisions about the child’s upbringing, for example where the child lives, the choice of school, religious practice etc?

Suggested supporting documents
There is no specific list of documents that are required for such an application, each case is very individual and will be considered on its own merit by the caseworker who will base their decision on the information that they have before them.

  • Statement from you as the sponsor explaining
    • your relationship with the child
    • the situation regarding the other biological parent
    • who looks after the child
    • why you didn’t bring them to the UK previously
    • when you last saw them
    • how you have kept in contact
    • how you have supported them financially.
  • Evidence to support all of the claims in the supporting letter
    • letter from the family member the child is currently living with
    • custody documents or letter from other biological parent
    • evidence of continued contact e.g. records of visits, telephone or skype records
    • evidence of financial maintenance, e.g. bank statements or transfer receipts
    • school/medical records stating that you are the parent.

Will I need a Custody Order?
Again this seems to depend on individual circumstances and the country from which you are applying, UKBA guidance states that ‘A custody order should normally be accepted as evidence that the “sole responsibility” requirement of the Rules is met provided that it gives responsibility for the child to the parent who is settled here or being admitted for settlement. The Child Abduction and Custody Act, 1985, makes provision for certain overseas custody orders to be recognised under United Kingdom law provided they have been registered with the courts here. However only certain overseas custody orders are recognised under UK law, a link to the list of approved countries can be found on the on the UKBA website – see page 8.

How do I apply?
An application for ‘settlement’ will need to be made online. Go to ‘Visas to enter UK’ section for information.

Qualified Immigration Advice
The F&C specialist is unable to give advice on these types of applications, other than the information which is provided above from the UKVI website. Depending on the individual circumstances (for example if there has been a long period of separation), it may be advisable to seek qualified advice before going ahead with an application. Qualified immigration lawyers can also assist with the applications and the supporting documents.

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07   Bereaved Partners and children

Indefinite leave to enter will be granted in the following circumstances:

You are outside UK on an accompanied assignment
You have or had leave as a dependant of a member of HM Forces
The soldier was:

  • A foreign or commonwealth citizen who was a serving member of HM Forces or
  • A discharged member of HM Forces granted or seeking leave to enter or remain or
  • A British citizen in HM Forces

You meet the suitability requirements – see the ‘Main requirements section’
At the time of your partners death the relationship was genuine and subsisting.

How do I apply?

Please contact the F&C team on fcsupport@aff.org.uk for guidance on how to apply.

Indefinite leave to remain will be granted in the following circumstances

You are in the UK
Your partner was at the time of your last grant of leave as a dependant

  • A foreign or commonwealth citizen who was a serving member of HM Forces or
  • A discharged member of HM Forces granted or seeking leave to enter or remain or
  • A British citizen in HM Forces

You meet the suitability requirements – see the ‘Main requirements section’*
At the time of your partners death the relationship was genuine and subsisting.

You DO NOT need to meet any English language requirements
You DO NOT need to take the Life in UK test.
You DO NOT need to meet any financial requirements

*limited leave to remain for 30 months will be granted if the applicant does not meet the suitability requirement. This will be subject to a condition of no recourse to public funds. This discretion does not apply for applications from overseas.

How do I apply?
Complete form SET(AF) click here.

Children’s applications 

Children (including over 18s with valid dependants visas) can be included on these applications if the other parent meets the criteria above. Limited leave will again be granted if the suitability requirements are not met for an application for ILR.

Children whose deceased parent had sole responsibility for them will also be eligible for ILE or ILR.  Applications should be made using form SET (AF), follow guidance above.

Contact the F&C team for any questions about these applications.

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08   Visitors to the UK

Applying for a visa

Since the immigration rules for visitors were changed in April 2015, we have seen a huge increase in refusals for people trying to bring family members to the UK. You are now required to show much more evidence to prove that the person visiting you has an intention to return home. See below for more information.

All information on coming to the UK for a visit can be found here.

Each individual travelling will be required to make an online application (including children) and will also need to attend your nearest visa application centre for an appointment to present the application form.

Supporting documents 

The supporting documents are very important; the visitor will need to show that they meet the main requirements of the rules listed below:

  1. They are able to support themselves financially whilst in the UK
    e.g Bank statements and proof of earnings – a letter from their employer
    **There is no set level of funds required for an applicant to show this.
    If you are the sponsor and you are providing financial support, then you will need to supply a letter confirming your relationship with the visitor and you will need to provide bank statements and payslips to prove that you have enough money to support them.
  2. They have somewhere to stay
    The sponsor (soldier or spouse) will need to provide proof that the visitor can stay in the quarter. See below for further information.  If you live in your own house, you should provide the address and a letter confirming that they are able to stay with you.
  3. They intend to return home at the end of their visit 
    This is a tricky one and is the reason most visit applications are refused. They will need to provide as much evidence as possible of their personal circumstances in their home country e.g. family/employment/studies/financial circumstances. If they have stated on the online form that they have an income in their home country, they will need to provide evidence to prove this. If they don’t, the application will be refused. We strongly recommend that you read the guidance about ‘genuineness and credibility’ on pages 15-18 at this link.

Whilst not a requirement, we would recommend that the visitor provides a supporting statement/covering letter with the application to explain the purpose of travel and to give detail of their circumstances in their home country. However, it is essential that anything you write in this statement can be backed up with evidence in the form of supporting documents. For a template supporting letter click here.

What do I do if the visa is refused?

There is a limited right of appeal for visit visas, you may re-apply at any time (unless the application was refused under general grounds, which restricted your return to the UK). You must ensure that the reasons why your previous application was refused are fully addressed, either through written explanation and/or submitting additional documents.

What can AFF do?

We are happy to provide advice when making initial applications, but we do not have the resources to assist with complex refusal cases. In such circumstances, we can refer you to an immigration advisor we trust who will not charge an unreasonable fee.

Staying in a quarter

Changes to rules on visitors staying in your quarter mean that you are able to apply for them to stay longer than 28 days in any 93-day period with permission from DIO Service Delivery Accommodation.

You must apply in writing, through your Unit Welfare Office, to the Housing Allocations Service Centre (HASC) (or local housing allocation office if serving abroad). You need to include the following information in your letter:

  • Serving soldier’s name, Unit
  • Address of SFA
  • Full name and date of birth of your visitors
  • Reason for visit and length of stay.

For more details, refer to JSP 464, Part 1, Annex D to Chapter 1.

There have been a number of cases where DIO Service Delivery Accommodation has refused to allow a visitor to stay for longer than 28 days. If your request has been refused, you should raise it through your chain of command in the first instance.

Access to healthcare

You should ensure that all visitors are covered through medical or travel insurance prior to travel. A few recent cases have highlighted the huge costs involved for treatment if something goes wrong.

Further information can be found here.

GP/primary care treatment
GPs have discretion to accept any person, including overseas visitors, to be either fully registered as a measure of an NHS patient, or as a temporary resident if they are to be in an area for between 24 hours and three months.

No registration application can be refused on the grounds of race, gender, class, age, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, diversity or medical condition.

In reality, this means that the practice’s discretion to refuse a patient is limited. There is no minimum period that a person needs to have been in the UK before a GP can register them. Furthermore, GPs have a duty to provide free of charge treatment, which they consider to be immediately necessary or an emergency, regardless of whether that person is an overseas visitor or registered with that practice.

Hospital treatment
If you are visiting England from a non-EEA country, even if you are a former UK resident, you need to ensure you are covered for healthcare through personal medical or travel insurance for the duration of your visit. If you need NHS treatment and you have not arranged insurance, you will be charged at 150% of the standard NHS rate, unless an exemption category applies to either you or the treatment.

If you are a non-EEA national, failure to pay this charge may have an effect on any future immigration application you make, and you risk being turned down.

Visitors for Childminding

The visit guidance states:

“Where a family member is coming to look after a child in the UK, this is permitted provided it is for a short visit and does not amount to the relative being employed as a child-minder. You must be satisfied that the visit is of a short duration and the relative is a genuine visitor.”

So it is possible to come to help look after a child during a soldier’s deployment, for example to provide emotional and practical support to a spouse, but it is unlikely that the Home Office will allow family members to come over on a regular basis to look after the children of single soldiers.  It would be expected, in such circumstances, that the soldier would have made other UK-based arrangements for the care of their children.

Extending visit visas

A standard visitor and a visitor for marriage or civil partnership, who was granted a visit visa or leave to enter for less than six months may be granted an extension of stay as a visitor so that the total period they can remain the UK (including both the original grant and the extension of stay) does not exceed six months. An application will need to be made using form FLR(IR) and the full cost paid.

UKBA guidance makes it clear that visas issued for six months can only be extended in compassionate circumstances, for example the illness of a close relative. Guidance at the following link gives more information about extending on this basis,  Click here and read sections 17.3 and 17.4. An application would be made on form FLR(HRO).

For all other cases, it would not be advisable to make an application to extend, you should leave the UK and return at a later date.

How many times can I visit in a year?

Information taken from the Visit Guidance page 17 ‘Frequent or successive visits’ states:
“There is no specified maximum period which an individual can spend in the UK in any period such as ‘6 months in 12 months’. However, if it is clear from an individual’s travel history that they are making the UK their home you should refuse their application”.

The caseworker will check

  • The purpose of the visit and intended length of stay stated
  • The number of visits made over the past 12 months, including the length of stay on each occasion
  • The time elapsed since the last visit, and if this amounts to the individual spending more time in the UK than in their home country
  • The purpose of return trips to the visitor’s home country and if this is used only to seek re-entry to the UK
  • The links they have with their home country
  • Evidence the UK is their main place of residence, for example
    • if they have registered with a GP
    • send their children to UK schools
  • The history of previous applications, for example if the visitor has previously been refused under the family rules and subsequently wants to enter as a visitor, you must assess if they are using the visitor route to avoid the rules in place for family migrants joining British or settled persons in the UK.
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09   Appealing a refusal

Appeal or reapply?

Your notice of refusal will tell you if you have a right of appeal. Any refusal to bring a partner or child to the UK automatically grants the right to appeal on the grounds that the decision is unlawful under Section 6 of the Human rights Act 1998.

However, it is really only worth appealing if you can prove that the immigration rules under which your family member applied for entry were satisfied at the time of application.

The review or immigration judge is entitled to look at circumstances/evidence after the date of decision only if they relate to circumstances before or at the time of decision.

  • Additional evidence
    If the main reason for refusal was due to a lack of evidence to show a subsisting relationship, or to show that the financial requirements were met at the time of application, then you should appeal and should send in the additional evidence. This will be considered during the appeal review because it relates to the initial application.
  • New evidence
    However, if the application was refused because the applicant did not take an English language test prior to applying or if the financial requirements were not met at the time of application, then an appeal is not likely to be successful. New evidence, which postdates the decision, cannot be considered as part of the appeal review. This evidence should be used to support a new application instead.

How to appeal

You have 28 days after the refusal date (given on the Notice of Refusal) to appeal. You can appeal online here.

Current cost of appealing is £140 for an oral hearing and £80 for a paper based hearing.

  • Click on ‘submit an appeal’
  • On the first screen tick the first option ‘I have received a decision to refuse my asylum, protection or human rights claim’
  • On the next screen, tick ‘No’ (the appeal is taking place outside the UK)
  • On the next screen, tick ‘Yes’ (it is against the decision of the ECO)
  • On the next screen, tick the first option ‘against a refusal of your human rights claim’
  • You will be asked if you would like an oral hearing or a paper one. Paper hearings are cheaper, but oral hearings have more chance of success as there will be someone there to speak on your partners behalf – that is if you are able to attend as the sponsor
  • You then have to follow the screens to complete all your personal information
  • Section 3B – list all new evidence you are sending in
  • Section 3D – grounds of appeal. AFF can help with this.

Sending in supporting documents

You should send in your refusal letter and any supporting documents, which you have noted on the online form, as soon as possible after the application has been submitted. The documents can be emailed or posted in.

All information will be given once the appeal has been submitted online. Read this carefully.

Appeals process

Once you have paid you should receive a Notice of Pending Appeal (IA10). This is an acknowledgement that the appeal has been registered by the First Tier Tribunal (FTT). The date given on the IA10 is the date by which they expect to receive the evidence (known as the bundle) from the Entry Clearance Manager (ECM) to support their decision to refuse – see below.  This is not a hearing date.

The ECM will reconsider the original decision. If they decide to overturn the refusal based on the new evidence, they will contact the applicant. If they decide that the original decision should stand, they will send the evidence, on which they based their decision to refuse, to FTT.

Once the FTT has received the bundle from the ECM, the appeal will be listed for a hearing at the next available date. You can also submit other documents during this time.

How long will it all take?

Although the IA10 has a date on it, it is meaningless. There is a massive backlog of appeal cases and the basic message is that it will take as long as it takes. There are now 65,000 outstanding appeals waiting to be determined, an increase in the backlog of 22%.

The ECM review can take anywhere from three to six months. You only know if it has been successful if you receive notification.

If the ECM decides not to overturn the original decision, then you won’t be told about this. You won’t receive any more information from the FTT until you get a hearing date.

The latest tribunal statistics, published in March 2017, show that the average waiting time for appeals to be heard in the immigration tribunal for visas to enter the UK is 83 weeks – that’s a year and a half.

What is the success rate?

The success rate for entry clearance appeals was 51% in the most recent tribunal statistics for 2016.

What can AFF do?

  • The F&C Specialist can provide advice and guidance relating to appeals
  • We can suggest additional evidence to be provided
  • We can assist with a detailed chronological statement to explain circumstances
  • We can refer your case to a Level 3 advisor if we are unable to assist due to the nature of the refusal

We cannot represent clients at the tribunal or undertake substantive appeals work.  

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