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Fresh Pressure On Government To Waive Commonwealth And Gurkha Soldiers' Visa Fees

Non-UK personnel currently face a fee of £2,389 per person to continue to live in the UK after having served at least four years.

Veterans Minister Leo Docherty will come under fresh pressure this week to waive fees charged for visas issued to Commonwealth and Gurkha veterans. 

Labour has presented an amendment to the Armed Forces Bill, which is due to return to the Commons this week, which would see Commonwealth and Gurkha veterans who have served four years or more in the forces pay only the cost price of an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

In 2019, the Veterans Minister joined 60 Conservative MPs in calling for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to drop the fees.

Statistics from the MOD show the amendment would help 10% of those who left the Army last year.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel announced a public consultation in May on proposals that would waive visa fees for those who had served 12 years or more.

Figures suggest that only 20 of the 200 non-UK personnel who left the Regulars in 2019/20, had served between four and 11 years.

The average length of service for all UK Armed Forces leavers has been about 10 years since 2015.

Young people celbrate Commonwealth Day near Westminster 110319 CREDIT Commonwealth.
Young people celebrate Commonwealth Day near Westminster (Pictures: Commonwealth).

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan said: "Commonwealth service personnel have contributed an enormous amount to our national defence and we owe them a debt of gratitude.

"Extortionate visa fees have left non-UK veterans facing financial ruin and feeling abandoned by the country they served with courage and distinction.

"This government loves to talk up its commitment to our forces, but their long-overdue proposals are frankly insulting. Our amendment gives the minister a chance to deliver on his previous vocal support for these veterans.

"Commonwealth veterans have already paid for their citizenship once with their service to our country. This government shouldn't be making them pay twice." he added.

Members of the Queen's Gurkha Engineer Regiment help build the new NHS Nightingale Hospital in London (Picture: MOD).
Members of the Queen's Gurkha Engineer Regiment, 36 Engineer Regiment, as they help build one of the Nightingale hospitals (Pictures: MOD).

In response, a Government spokesperson said: "We are hugely grateful to the contribution of all our Armed Forces.

"The Home Office and Ministry of Defence work closely with our non-UK recruits to make sure they are fully aware of how they and their families can settle in the UK, and the costs involved.

"This includes working with the Joining Forces Credit Union to offer financial advice, savings packages and loans to help personnel pay for visa costs."

Under current rules, Commonwealth personnel face a fee of £2,389 per person to continue to live in the UK after having served at least four years.

This means that someone with a partner and two children could have to pay almost £10,000 in fees to stay in the UK following their service.