ILR and visas options whilst in Germany
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Feb 2012 update: AFF has come across a number of recent cases where an ILE application has been made but ILE has not been issued or an expiry date has been given which does not match up with the date on your passport. If your soldier has completed five years service, is not a British Citizen and you have been married for two years then you should be eligible for ILE in accordance with the revisions to the immigration rules made in September 2010. It appears that this has been occurring since processing of visa applications moved to UK last summer and is believed to be a result of caseworkers not being aware of the rules. The AFF F&C Specialist is trying to resolve this issue.
Click here to see the flow chart showing visa options whilst in Germany.
UKBA have recently revised their rules surrounding the application process for a UK visa whilst serving overseas. It is now possible to apply for settlement (ILE) whilst overseas even if you have not been posted back to the UK, you are also able to apply for Leave To Enter (LTE) if you don’t qualify for ILE.
What is ILE? Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE) is essentially the same as ILR, it does have an expiry date which coincides with the passport expiry date but the visa is indefinite. Dependants can carry their expired passport with them whenever they travel or they can choose to apply for the visa to be transferred to the new passport. Details on how to do this can be found by clicking here. This costs £200 per main applicant and £50 per dependant.
Do I have to have a visa? No, if you don’t wish to travel to the UK regularly, then there is no requirement for you to have a UK visa whilst you are in Germany. On posting back to the UK, your unit will refund the cost of the visa that will then be required (see 'Assignments to UK' for more information).
If however you wish to travel to the UK regularly then you have a number of options depending upon your situation and the nationality and length of service of the soldier.
I have a current visa, can I apply for ILE? No, UKBA have advised that it is not possible to make an application for a visa if you currently have a valid one, you will need to wait until your current visa has expired. However if you have a visit visa, you are able to apply for ILE or LTE.
1. Soldier is NOT a British Citizen
- Has served five years and have been married for two years. Eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE)/settlement (but only if you don't already have a dependants visa). Each individual travelling with be required to make an online application (including children) and will also need to attend the Consulate in Dusseldorf for an appointment to present the application form, supporting documents and to have biometric details taken. Go to the Dusseldorf Visa Application page and then click on the link for the online form. On the first page of the application form you will be asked for your ‘purpose of application’ select ‘settlement’ and then select ‘spouse’ from the ‘type of application’ drop down menu. As the form presumes that you are travelling to the UK, it will ask for a date of travel – just select the latest possible date it gives you. The form will also ask for an address – use your current BFPO address. The visa will cost £810 per person (including children), this is cheaper than applying in the UK if you don’t have children, but considerably more expensive if you do have children. A spouse and two children will pay £486 more for this visa in Germany than if they applied in the UK.
- Has NOT served five years or been married for two. Not eligible for ILE/settlement but eligible to apply for a four year LTE (Leave to Enter) visa. Follow the information above on how to apply. This application will cost £810 per person (including children), this is considerably more than you would pay in the UK so this type of visa is really only recommended if you need to travel to the UK very regularly (for example if you have a child at boarding school in the UK). A spouse and two children would pay £1,330 more for this visa in Germany than if they were in the UK. You may therefore wish to consider applying for a long-term visit visa instead, see 'Applying for a visit visa'. On posting back to the UK, your unit will refund the cost of the visa that will then be required.
What supporting documents should I provide? You will need to get a letter from your Unit to confirm that you are on an accompanied overseas assignment and to confirm the date of enlistment and expected run-out date of the soldier. The letter should also confirm that you are living in Service Families Accommodation with the soldier. For a template letter, click here (the unit will need to change ILE to LTE if you are not eligible to apply for settlement). It is also recommended that you include the guidance that UKBA have produced for its caseworkers on these visas as they are unique to spouses of serving soldiers. If you are applying for ILE then include this letter, if you are applying for LTE then include this letter. You will also need to provide bank statements and payslips to prove that you can maintain yourself without recourse to public funds. Click here for a suggested list of supporting documents.
2. Solider is a British Citizen
- Married for three years. Eligible to apply for Citizenship using the Crown Service route (unless the soldier is an ex-Gurkha). See the 'Citizenship and Life in the UK test' section.
- Not married for three years (or soldier is an ex-Gurkha). Apply for two year probationary spouse visa also called a ‘settlement visa’ (this is the same as the FLR(M) visa in the UK). The current rules state that whilst you are able to make the application for the settlement visa from Germany, you still need to travel to the UK to ‘activate’ the visa in order for the clock to start ticking, otherwise your time overseas will not count. If you are still in Germany when the two years is due to expire you have to return to the UK again to make your ILR application. Click here and then click on ‘Section 1: Spouses’ and scroll down to paragraph 7 for the UKBA instructions detailing this rule (see below for an update on this). It may also be necessary to have passed an English language test at ESOL Entry Level (A1) before the settlement visa will be issued, for full details see the 'Assignments to UK' section. To apply for this visa go to the Dusseldorf Visa Application page and then click on the link for the online form. On the first page of the application form you will be asked for your ‘purpose of application’ select ‘settlement’ and then select ‘spouse’ from the ‘type of application’ drop down menu. As the form presumes that you are travelling to the UK, it will ask for a date of travel – just select the latest possible date it gives you. The form will also ask for an address – use your current BFPO address. The visa will cost £810 per person (including children), this is cheaper than applying in the UK if you don’t have children, but considerably more expensive if you do have children. A spouse and two children would pay £1,330 more for this visa in Germany than if they were in the UK.
Remember your Unit will pay for this visa on a posting to the UK, it is not necessary to apply for this visa if you have not been posted. However your time spent in Germany will not count unless you have this visa.
April 2011 Update: After raising the issue of why spouses of British soldiers have to return to the UK to apply for ILR when spouses of commonwealth soldiers don’t, HQ Land Forces have responded to say that they intend talking to UKBA about this. They agree that Armed Forces personnel and their dependents should be treated as if in the UK even when serving overseas. In the meantime though, spouses who already have the two year ‘probationary visa’ will have to return to the UK to apply for ILR.Back to top
What is a visit visa? There is lots of useful information about visit visas on the UKBA website, click here.
How do I apply? Click here for all information on how to apply for a visa in Germany. Each individual travelling with be required to make an online application (including children) and will also need to attend the Consulate in Dusseldorf for an appointment to present the application form, supporting documents and to have biometric details taken.
What visa do I apply for? If you are going to the UK to visit and stay with family members, then you need to select the option ‘(General) family up to 6 months’ from the ‘type of application box’ on the online form. If you are going to be staying with friends or in a hotel, you will need to select the ‘(General) Single, double and multiple, valid up to 6 months’ option.
What supporting documents do I need? Click here for a comprehensive list of the documents you may need to provide. The supporting documents are very important, you need to be able to prove to the entry clearance officer (ECO) assessing your application, that you are able to support yourself financially whilst in the UK, that you are able to fund your flights to and from the UK and that you have somewhere to stay. If staying with friends/family, they will need to provide a letter of support. You also need to prove that you have a life in Germany to return to, so a letter from your unit confirming that you are on an accompanied overseas assignment and live in service families accommodation would be recommended. If you don’t supply the suggested documents, your application may be refused.
Long-Term visit visas: If you are going to need to return to the UK on a regular basis you may wish to consider applying for a long-term visit visa as this is the cheapest option. It is important you read the information carefully before you make your application, click here.Back to top
The unit will refund the cost of a visit visa required for a medical appointment in the UK. You will need to follow the guidance above for applying for a visit visa and will need to include proof of your hospital appointment. Do not select the ‘private medical visitor’ option (unless you are having private treatment), if you will not be staying with family then select the ‘general visitor’ option.
If you need to remain in the UK for a period of time, your Unit Admin Office will advise you on whether you are entitled to stay in transit accommodation or hotel if you have no friends or family to stay with.Back to top
Children going to boarding school should either apply for a Leave to Enter visa or Indefinite Leave to Enter, depending upon what they qualify for. They should not enter the UK on a visit visa. It should not be necessary for you to apply for a Tier 4 (child) student visa, as these visa are for foreign students entering the UK and the visa requirements are very specific (although they are cheaper). If you have problems obtaining a visa for your child, you should approach your UWO in the first instance, but please contact me if you are not getting the information that you need.
If you have a child in the UK in boarding school then you will have to apply for a full visa not a visit visa. Depending on the circumstances you would need to apply for one of the visas in section 'Can I extend my visa or apply for settlement whilst I am in Germany'.Back to top
There is now a procedure in place to ensure that emergency travel visas to UK will be issued to families without visas (who require them for entering the UK for any reason and for any length of time), in the event of a serious injury, or death of a soldier in Afghanistan. These instructions have been sent to all units and UWOs have been fully briefed. The advise is for all non-EEA dependants (including children) who require a visa, to complete the required visit visa application form prior to the soldiers deploying (less the dates of travel and the signature and date block). The Unit will then keep this on file, along with copies of the biographical data pages of passports. In the event that travel is required, the unit can then easily access the file, check that the details are still correct and fill in dates. All the spouse will need to do is enter the dates of travel and sign and date the application form. The Unit will then follow the procedures to get the authority to travel. Once in the UK, the family/spouse will be met by an escorting officer.
Please note that entry into UK will only be granted for no longer than 6 months and is issued for visiting purposes only. Cases where the dependant will have to remain in the UK for a longer period will be managed on a case by case basis through the UWO.
Non-EEA dependants, who do not require a visa to enter the UK for less than 6 months for the purpose of a visit, are NOT required to complete an application form. Cases where the dependant will have to remain in the UK for a longer period will be managed on a case by case basis through the UWO.
We have also been advised that is not possible to apply for a visit visa ‘just in case’ in order to cover the period of the deployment. UKBA only grant visas when a there is a legitimate reason for a visit to the UK and evidence of such a trip can be shown, along with evidence of funding and accommodation in the UK. See 'Applying for a visit visa' to find out more.
If you would prefer to have a visa already in place, then the only options available would be to apply for either Leave to Enter or Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE). You would only be eligible for ILE if you have been married for more than two years and the soldier has served for five years and is NOT a British Citizen. For more information about these visas see 'Can I extend my visa or apply for settlement whilst I am in Germany?' .Back to top
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