Home Secretary urged to waive mean visa fees for Commonwealth veterans after

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. “The changes we propose are in line with the Armed Forces Covenant and would make a real difference to those who’ve shown such commitment to the UK.”The letter, seen by the Telegraph, says: ‘No veteran who has served this country from a Commonwealth nation should risk having their family split up due to not being able to afford these costs’.During Service, Commonwealth personnel can be accompanied by their families and are exempt from UK immigration controls. However, this exemption is removed immediately on discharge and, whilst waiting for a decision on their settlement status, former Service personnel are unable to seek employment, claim benefits or register with a GP.Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK can be requested by veterans with four years of service. Fees for applying for ILR were introduced in 2003 at £155 per applicant. Prior to this there was no fee.Visa application fees have risen by 127% in the last five years from £1,051 to £2,389, and since 2003 have increased overall by 1,441%.In 2017 there were 400 applications from Armed Forces veterans for ILR, which equates to 0.6 per cent of the total number of grants for permanent residency made by the Home Office. A cross party group of MPs have urged the Home Secretary to waive visa fees  for Commonwealth soldiers who want to stay in the UK after their service.In a letter signed by 133 MPs from eight different parties, Sajid Javid is asked to recognise “the nation’s respect” for Commonwealth servicemen and women who have served in Britain’s armed forces.Currently, fees could reach £10,000 for a service leaver to settle in the UK with a spouse and two children.Each year around 500 commonwealth personnel are faced with these costs should they wish to remain in the UK with their family. Veterans who cannot pay these fees, or whose application fails, can face deportationSpeaking to the Telegraph Richard Graham MP, co-signatory of the letter, said: “I know the Defence Secretary is supportive [as is] the Foreign Secretary. There is a degree of support for this.“My sense is this is exactly the sort of thing we should be doing. If you explained it to someone, they would intuitively feel this was somewhat mean.“These men and women are willing to put their life on the line for our country and the current situation doesn’t reflect our and the nation’s respect for them. In 2017/18, 50 personnel recruited from the Commonwealth left the Royal Navy and Royal Marines and 440 left the Army.Madeleine Moon MP, co-signatory and chair of the Nato Parliamentary Assembly said: “It used to be said an army marches on its stomach.  Today an army marches knowing their family is safe and secure. We owe that level of security and confidence to Commonwealth soldiers.”Last year the Telegraph revealed how the Government committed to recruiting 1,250 Commonwealth personnel a year, up from a previous target of 200, in a bid to raise manning levels.Britain employs 4,710 Commonwealth citizens in the Armed Forces, with 3,940 in the Army, 480 in the Royal Navy and 80 serving in the RAF.Charles Byrne, Director General of the Royal British Legion, said: “These Commonwealth veterans are facing a desperate situation.   “They have left their homeland and given years of loyal service to the United Kingdom.  They should be able to continue living in the UK with their families, without incurring significant financial costs.  “This is a poor way of saying thank you to people we encouraged to leave their countries to serve in the British Armed Forces”. read more

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