Army veteran MP rues 'missed opportunity' as Commons rejects visa fees amendment

MPs have rejected proposals to scrap visa fees for foreign-born UK veterans who want to remain in the country.

Two British Army veteran MPs – Labour's Dan Jarvis and Conservative Johnny Mercer – had tabled an amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill to remove fees of more than £2,000 for personnel and their families who settle in the UK after five years' military service.

The House of Commons voted 296 to 251, a majority of 45, against the amendment.

Dan Jarvis, a former Army officer, said the vote against the amendment was a "missed opportunity", accusing the Government of a "complete disregard for our foreign and Commonwealth-born servicemen and women".

Johnny Mercer, also a former Army officer and a former defence minister, criticised the Defence Secretary and said Mr Jarvis and himself will continue to follow up the case of visa fees.

The Government has proposed that troops from non-UK nations who have served in the British Armed Forces for 12 years may be able to stay in the country for free.

Mr Mercer described the 12-year figure as being "plucked out of the air".

In May, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) said there was a proposal to waive the £2,389 visa application fee for Commonwealth service personnel, in order to "recognise their contribution".

A MOD spokesperson said: "The government is determined to address the issue of visa fees for the UK’s foreign born service personnel and earlier this year we launched a consultation to see if more could be done.

"Any new policy must be fair, and this amendment would have unfairly impact British service personnel who marry or have dependents from countries outside the UK.

"The proposed period of 12 years is in line with the length of time personnel initially sign up to serve, and takes into account the significant investment in their skills and training."