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Government visa fee proposals for Commonwealth veterans to help just one in ten

Proposals to waive visa fees for non-UK service personnel would help just 10% of those who left the Army last year, statistics from the Ministry of Defence reveal.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel announced a public consultation this week (26 May) on proposals which would waive visa fees for those who had served 12 years or more.

But figures from the MoD suggest that this would apply to just 20 of the 200 non-UK personnel who left the Regulars in 2019/20, with the majority serving between 4 and 11 years.

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

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. It means that someone with a partner and two children could face a bill of almost £10,000 to stay in Britain.

The proposed changes also do not apply to family members of those who have served or those who have been medically discharged, meaning they will only help a minority of those affected.

Labour has said the proposals are “frankly insulting” and called the government to extend the fee waiver to all of those who have served four years or more.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan MP 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 have served with courage and distinction.

“The government’s long-overdue proposals are frankly insulting, and will continue to prevent non-UK personnel from living in the country they have fought for.

“Commonwealth veterans have already paid for their citizenship once with their service to our country. This government shouldn’t be making them pay twice.”