Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson Jamie Stone MP has joined calls from The Royal British Legion for the Government to abolish visa fees for Commonwealth servicemen and women.
Currently Commonwealth citizens serving in the UK armed forces have the right to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after four years’ service if they choose to stay in the UK, and to sponsor applications for their partners and children.
However application costs have risen considerably in recent years, meaning it would currently cost almost £10,000 in visa fees for a service leaver to settle in the UK with a spouse and two children.
Commonwealth citizens are often forced to choose between leaving the UK, a country they have sacrificed a great deal to serve, or remaining here and splitting up their family. The Royal British Legion, which has raised awareness of this issue through their ‘Stop the Service Charge’ campaign, say they have provided £36,000 in grants for visa fees last year alone.
Commenting Mr Stone said:
“Thousands of men and women from Commonwealth nations risk their lives defending our country as members of the British Armed Forces. They have the right to live here with their families once their service ends, but the Home Office’s exorbitant application fees are preventing them from taking up that right.
“The current visa charges do not reflect the nations gratitude for their service, and it is outrageous that immigration fees mean many aren’t able to bring their partners and children with them.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We must remove this unfair burden on those who have contributed so much to our country.”
Charles Byrne, Director General at The Royal British Legion, said:
“Charging exorbitant fees to those who have sacrificed so much to serve our country is no way to thank Commonwealth service leavers. We are pleased so many people agree with our Stop the Service Charge campaign and are joining the call to have these fees waived. We hope the Government will listen to these serious concerns.”