Visas to enter UK
On this page:
10 Sept - Can visit visas be extended?
10 Sept - Visit visas for short-term support for injured soldiers
20 Jun - Error Referral process for Armed Forces visas
Which visa do I need to complete to join my soldier spouse in the UK?
What documents do I need to support my visa application?
Children from previous relationships – can I bring them to the UK?
The Appeals Process
Visitors to the UK
UKBA guidance makes it clear that visit visas can only be extended in compassionate circumstances, for example the illness of a close relative. Guidance at the following link gives more information about extending on this basis, click here - then click on chapter 2 ‘carers’.
For all other cases it would not be advisable to make an application to extend, you should leave the UK and return at a later date. UKBA guidance for its caseworkers on when you can return can be found here - then click on ‘general visitor’Back to top
The F&C support guide states:
63. Short Term Support to Soldiers and their Families from Extended family overseas travelling in the UK. UKBA visitor immigration instructions allow individuals to apply to come to the UK as a visitor to provide short term care or support for instance to a family member recovering from an illness of injury. Applicants must provide full evidence of the nature of their visit including how long the visit will last (up to six months is permitted) along with evidence of support and accommodation for the duration of the visit (this may need a letter from the family to supported saying they can stay in their Service Families Accommodation and that they will support them during their stay. The Entry Clearance officer (ECO) will need to be satisfied that only a visit is intended and that applicants will leave the UK at the end of the visit. Where there is a Service need units may providing a supporting letter to the Service family who send it to the applicant to submit as part of the application. Click here for a draft template letter.. Those planning on staying longer that 6 months should seek qualified legal advice prior to the end of their current visa period.Back to top
As a result of a series of complaints from AFF about F&C spouses being issued with the wrong length of visa, UKBA have provided us with a process by which individuals may apply to have their visa corrected. The table below shows the types of visa that should be issued to F&C families if ‘settlement’ on entry to the UK was applied for.
Length of time served/married
|Length of visa/endorsement|
|Commonwealth soldier||Less than five years or married less than two years||
'to acc or join spouse/cp'
|Commonwealth soldier||Five years or more and married two years or more||
Visa issued up to expiry date on passport.
‘Indefinite Leave to Enter’ written on visa
|British Citizen soldier||N/A||
27 months limited leave to enter
‘Spouse/cp’ written on visa
If you believe you have been given a visa for the wrong length of time or have been given an incorrect endorsement you should send your passport, two passport photos and a covering letter explaining the circumstances to the following address:
RCU EC Errors
15th Floor Apollo House
36 Wellesley Road
If you are unsure whether you have been given the correct visa or not, please contact the F&C specialist.Back to top
On 6th April 2010, as part of the visa price changes, UKBA increased the price of a visa for families of ‘exempt’ soldiers from £215 to £644 per person (inc. children) per visa. On 22nd November 2010, this fee increased again to £750 and then on 6th April 2011 it increased again to £810. Families are also now required to complete an online application form for a ‘settlement’ visa (or VAF4A in paper form) instead of an ‘employment’ visa (VAF2) regardless of whether the soldier is a commonwealth citizen or a British Citizen.
You are no longer able to come to the UK on a visit visa and switch into a dependants visa. Guidance for Armed Forces applications can now be found on the UKBA website, click here
Non-visa nationals: If you are a non-visa national (i.e. you do not need a visa to enter the UK for 6 months or less) and the serving soldier is NOT a British Citizen then you may be able to come to the UK and apply for further leave to remain using form FLR(O) once you are in the UK. However if you are intending to come to the UK to settle then you should make the correct ‘settlement’ application before leaving the UK. There have been cases of families being refused entry into the UK because the immigration officer did not believe they were coming for a visit, and cases where applications in the UK to ‘switch’ into the settlement category have been refused due to poor immigration history.
IMPORTANT! - If the soldier is a British Citizen, you will need to follow the guidance below. It is not possible to switch visas in the UK if the soldier is a British Citizen, you will need to return home and make the correct application to enter the UK.
To apply for a visa:
- All information on how to apply for a settlement visa to join your soldier spouse in the UK can be found at this link: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/partners-families/citizens-settled/spouse-cp/apply-outside-uk. You will either have to complete an online form or the paper based VAF4A form depending on which country you are applying from.
- Supporting documents: click on the link above then click on the left hand side for a list of suggested supporting documents. You can also look at the section below.
- The visa application costs £810 per person (every child regardless of age also has to make an application).
- You will need to make an appointment to attend the VAC, you will need to ensure you take the form and all supporting documents with you to this appointment.
How long will the application take? This varies considerably depending on which country you are coming from and whether it is a straightforward application or not, but the average time is probably around 8-12 weeks. The best way to get an idea of how long it will take is to look at the visa processing times on the UkBA website. Click here and select your country from the drop down menu. The UKBA website also advises the following:
You can apply for your visa within three months of your intended date of travel. We are only able to post-date visas by a maximum of three months from the date of the decision on your visa application. You can enter the UK anytime after your visa issue date but not before.
We strongly advise applicants not to confirm their travel arrangements to come to the UK until they have received their visa.
We strongly recommend that you do not buy a non-refundable, non-flexible ticket to the UK, until your visa application has been approved and you have received your visa. We do not accept responsibility for any financial loss and we do not fast-track applications solely due to planned date of travel.
If your soldier spouse is a British Citizen, the settlement visa will give you two years leave to enter the UK; 28 days before this visa expires you should be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, click here for more information.
New English Language Requirement: From 29 November 2010, any non-European migrant who wants to enter or remain in the UK as the partner of a British citizen or a person settled here will need to show that they can speak and understand basic English at A1 level. If you are a national of a majority English-speaking country, you meet the English language requirement automatically and will not need to take the test. For all information about this, including a list of countries exempt from this requirement and a list of approved test providers, see the 'ILR and Visa extensions in the UK' page. **This new rule will only apply to spouses coming to join a serving soldier who is a British Citizen. If the soldier still has his/her ‘exempt stamp’ the spouse will not be required to take the test.
If your soldier spouse is a commonwealth citizen, you should be given a visa for four years *(though the length of time given seems to depend upon the country you are coming from). You are able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) once your soldier spouse has completed five years service and as long as you have been married for two years. If your visa expires before your soldier spouse has completed five years service then you will need to apply for further leave to remain using form FLR(O). for further information about these visas see the 'ILR and Visa extensions in the UK' page.
If your soldier spouse is a commonwealth citizen and has already competed five years in the Army, then you should be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE) under paragraphs 276R of the immigration rules. You would need to specify this on the application form and you would need to provide confirmation from the soldiers unit of his length of service.Back to top
The supporting documents that you provide are more important than the application form as they give evidence of what you have written on the form. The individuals assessing your application will base their decision upon these documents. Therefore, it is very important that you provide as much evidence as you can of your personal circumstances. For a suggested list produced by UKBA click here. The following is a list of documents which the soldier should provide:
- A letter from the sponsor (the soldier) confirming his or her occupation and salary, and how they will provide support and accommodation for the applicant and any accompanying children.
- Evidence that the sponsor is in the UK, such as copy of the biodata page (photo) of their passport and their Exempt UK Immigration Control Stamp.
- Sponsor’s recent pay slips and bank statements (six months worth) or savings books to show what financial support is available and how travel to the UK will be paid for. This is very important; the application could be rejected if the sponsor does not prove that he can support his family.
- Evidence of accommodation, such as a letter from DIO OPS Accommodation (If you have not yet been allocated a quarter then the letter from your unit should state that you are entitled to one and have applied).
- Evidence that the marriage is still subsisting, especially if you have been apart for a while. UKBA need evidence to show that the soldier has returned home for visits (if possible) and evidence of continued contact in the form of emails, letters, phone bills showing telephone conversations, birthday cards, money transfer invoices if appropriate. This is also very important, a number of spouses have had applications refused because they did not provide enough evidence of this.
The sponsoring soldier should also get a supporting letter from his unit to confirm his details. Click here for a template Unit letter.
Certified copies of passports: If for Service reasons, for instance an imminent deployment, it is not possible to submit a soldier’s original passport, units are to provide a certified copy for inclusion with the application. Click here for a template letter.
**ID Cards: because ID cards have an expiry date, it is not recommended that you send this as evidence of occupation. Visa Application Centres have, in the past, only issued visas up to the expiry date on the card. The letter from the Unit detailing the run-out date is sufficient.
NEW! A soldier who successfully applied for a visa for his wife explains the importance of the supporting documents, click here to read his letter.Back to top
What are the immigration rules?
The rules state that a child cannot normally go to live in the UK if one parent is living abroad, unless the sponsoring parent* in the UK has sole responsibility for the child, or if there are special reasons why the child should be allowed to join the parent in the UK. These special reasons would include cases where the parent in the home country is mentally or physically incapable of looking after the child. Wishing to bring the child to the UK because it offers a higher standard of living than their own country is not classed as a special reason.
* ‘parent’ includes a step-parent where the father or mother is dead, either the father or mother of an illegitimate child and, in certain circumstances, an adoptive parent.
What is ‘sole responsibility’?
A parent must be able to show that he/she has been solely responsible for exercising parental care over the child for a substantial period. If the sponsoring parent and child are separated, the child will normally be expected to have been in the care of the sponsoring parent's relatives rather than the relatives of the other parent. An application should normally be refused if the child has been in the care of the other parent's relatives and the other parent lives nearby and takes an active interest in the child's welfare.
The following factors should be considered in assessing sole responsibility:
- If the parents' marriage / civil partnership is dissolved, which parent was awarded legal custody, which includes assumption of responsibility for the child?
- If the sponsoring parent migrated to the UK, how long has the sponsoring parent been separated from the child?
- If the sponsoring parent migrated to the UK, what were the arrangements for the care of the child before and after the sponsoring parent migrated?
- If the sponsoring parent migrated to the UK, what has been/what is the sponsoring parent's relationship with the child?
- Has the sponsoring parent consistently supported the child, either by: direct personal care; or by regular and substantial financial remittances?
- By whom, and in what proportions, is the cost of the child's maintenance borne?
- Who takes the important decisions about the child's upbringing, for example where the child lives, the choice of school, religious practice etc?
There is no specific list of documents that are required for such an application, each case is very individual and will be considered on its own merit by the caseworker who will base their decision on the information that they have before them. You cannot rely on the completed application form to provide all the information that is required; these types of applications need to be backed up by a lot of evidence to support your claims, particularly if there has been a long period of separation. For example, if you state in your application that your child has been living with your mother whilst he finishes school, then you should provide a letter from your mother to prove this, and a letter from the school that your child has been attending. Similarly, if you have been sending regular payments to your parents for the child, then show proof of these.
It is not always easy to get hold of the proof that you need, for example if you have been using phone cards to call your child to keep in contact, then you would have no evidence of the telephone calls you have been making. If this is the case then explain this in your statement. If you have other evidence showing that you have sole responsibility then the lack of one type of evidence will not necessarily lead to a refusal. The standard of proof is the balance of probabilities. The balance of probabilities simply means that on consideration of the evidence there is more evidence in favour of one decision than the other.
Will I need a Custody Order?
Again this seems to depend on individual circumstances and the country from which you are applying, UKBA guidance states that ‘A custody order should normally be accepted as evidence that the "sole responsibility" requirement of the Rules is met provided that it gives responsibility for the child to the parent who is settled here or being admitted for settlement. The Child Abduction and Custody Act, 1985, makes provision for certain overseas custody orders to be recognised under United Kingdom law provided they have been registered with the courts here. However only certain overseas custody orders are recognised under UK law, a link to the list of approved countries can be found on the on the UKBA website under ‘related documents’.
Greg Hind, the tri-service Community Social Worker for the Eastern Caribbean has done a lot of research into this issue. He says: ‘My experience is that the application process can be brief, amounting to only a couple of weeks and inexpensive as long as it is not contested and that the other parent provides a supportive written statement to the Court. The child’s and parent’s birth certificates would need to be provided. However, the application must be made in person by the Serving Person or his/her spouse, whoever is the parent’.
How do I apply?
An application for ‘settlement’ will need to be made through your nearest Visa Application Centre. Click here for information on how to apply.
Qualified Immigration Advice
The F&C specialist is unable to give advice on these types of applications, other than the information which is provided above from the UKBA website. Depending on the individual circumstances (for example if there has been a long period of separation), it may be advisable to seek qualified advice before going ahead with an application. Qualified immigration lawyers can also assist with the applications and the supporting documents. See the ‘Sources of help and information ’ section to find an advisor in your area.
Case study: Krishana Fagan contacted me in February this year asking for help. She is married to a commonwealth soldier who has naturalised as a British Citizen, she has a two year spouse visa. She had come to the UK two years previously but had left her child in Jamaica in the care of her mother. She had wanted to get fully settled in the UK prior to bringing her son over as he has brain damage, she therefore didn’t want to disturb him from his routine until she had everything in place for this arrival. The child’s biological father had never been a part of his life and they were not sure of his whereabouts. I explained that because the biological father was still alive, her husband could not be considered to be the ‘father’ so she would have to prove ‘sole responsibility’. I sent her a list of suggested documents to include with the application and in May she returned to Jamaica to submit it. She says ‘we followed the guidance that you sent us and provided lots of letters; from my husband stating that he has been supporting my child financially; from my mother confirming that my son has been staying with her, from the school, from a Justice of Peace who knows our family and from a therapy clinic that my son attends. We were never asked to provide a letter from the biological father. The Embassy called my mother to ask a few questions and then they issued the visa 2 weeks after we put in the application. We were surprised but very pleased. My son will be joining us in July’.Back to top
1. Refusals for visas to enter the UK
The first thing to remember is that the appeals process is there to help you. It is an example of democracy in practice, you are being given the chance to ask someone to have another look at your application based on new evidence – for free. So make the most of this opportunity. You will be informed on the visa refusal letter (called the Notice of Decision) whether you are eligible to appeal or not. If you are overseas and you are able to appeal, then the appeal form (called an IAFT-2 form) will be included with the refusal letter.
Why have I been refused?
The Notice of Decision will tell you in detail the reasons for refusal, so any appeal that you make will need to address these reasons. Many applications from overseas spouses of soldiers fail because the spouse has not included enough evidence of a ‘subsisting marriage’ especially if the soldier and spouse have been separated for a year or more. Many visit visas fail because there was not enough evidence of finances or evidence of accommodation during the visit. Examples of the evidence that the ECO will need to see will be mentioned in the refusal letter, but you should also read the relevant sections on this webpage for further suggested supporting documents.
How long do I have to appeal?
The most important thing is to ensure you get the appeal form in on time. You should send the form and all documents directly to the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) in Leicester. You are no longer able to send them to the visa application centre overseas that made the initial decision. If you collected the Notice of Decision from the visa centre, then you will have 28 days in which to send in your appeal. If the Notice of Decision was posted to you, then you have an extra 28 days to appeal (so 56 days in total). You should send in the appeal form even if you have not had time to gather together all the new evidence – you are able to submit evidence at any time before the hearing date (as long as it pre-dates the original refusal).
What will happen next?
The Tribunal aim to electronically register the appeal within ten business days from its date of receipt. You should then receive a Notice of Pending Appeal (form IA10) confirming receipt of your appeal. Until an appeal has been electronically registered, the Customer Enquiry Unit will not be able to update you on the progress of your appeal. The Notice of Pending Appeal will give a date by which the Visa Application Centre where you made the application has to submit all documents to the Tribunal to justify its reasons for refusing the application. This is usually a date 14-16 weeks after your appeal form was sent to the Tribunal. This is not a hearing date.
If there are compelling and/or compassionate reasons which warrant your appeal being brought forward you should put your reasons in writing and send them to the address below.
Your reasons and any supporting documentation will be put before a duty immigration judge to decide if your appeal should be heard sooner than usual. It is in your interest to make sure the judge has all the documentation necessary to support your application.
For example, if you are due to deploy shortly, a letter from your unit to confirm this will be necessary. If there are medical reasons, then a letter from a doctor will be required.
You should note that your application will not be considered by a judge before you have paid your appeal fee, unless one is not required in your case.
You should address any correspondence to the President of the First-tier Tribunal clearly marked: REAH The First-Tier Tribunal to:
Office of the Duty Immigration Judge
Expedited Appeal Hearing Requests
First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber)
PO Box 6987
Leicester LE1 6ZX
Fax: 01509 221403 or 0044 1509 221 403 if you are faxing from overseas
Will I have to go to court?
Not necessarily, if you provide enough new evidence to satisfy the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO), there is a very good chance that your appeal will be successful without it ever reaching the Immigration Tribunal in the UK. The entry clearance officer will reconsider the original decision based upon the new evidence and if they think the decision can be changed they will contact you and will explain what will happen next. They have until ten days after the date on your Notice of Pending appeal to inform you if they have decided to overturn the original decision. However, where the ECO is still not satisfied with the new evidence, then the appeal will be sent to the UK.
Should I get a lawyer?
In an ideal world, everyone should engage a professional representative to represent them at the tribunal. Realistically speaking, this is not always possible as the cost can be prohibitive for many. You do not have to have a professional representative, you can nominate your sponsor in the UK to be your representative, or your sponsor can attend the hearing in an unofficial capacity. It is always advisable to have someone to represent you at the hearing if you cannot attend yourself. You will then have an opportunity to put your case forward. If you do decide to engage a lawyer, you should ensure that they are qualified immigration professionals. Click here for information on where to find a lawyer.
How long do I have to wait for a hearing?
Once the appeal has been lodged in the UK, you will receive a Notice of Pending Appeal letter (IA10). There will be a date on this letter, this is not the hearing date but the date by which the Immigration Tribunal will receive the evidence from the ECO on which they have based their decision to refuse your application. The ECO has sixteen weeks to do this for settlement applications and eight weeks for visit visas. You/your representative will also receive a copy of this evidence and will then receive another letter informing you of the date and location of the hearing. This date will be at least a further 28 days ahead for visit visas and 56 days for settlement applications. This time is to allow you to prepare your case. So in effect it will take approximately six months for the hearing to take place.
Can I cancel the appeal?
Yes - A person who has an appeal pending can make a fresh application for entry clearance in the same or any other category. There is no requirement for a person to withdraw an appeal. If you decide you do not wish to wait for the appeal to reach a hearing in the UK, you can just make another application. In this case you will have to accept that you have lost the money from the original application.
What can AFF do?
The F&C specialist is not a qualified immigration advisor and is therefore unable to give advice or represent anyone. What I can do is give information about the appeals process. I am also happy to read a refusal letter and can send information taken from the UKBA website about further supporting documents that should be provided. If you think that the visa was refused because of the unique immigration rules relating to soldiers and their families, then the soldier should inform their unit in the first instance. The case can then be passed to LFSec(F&C) who liaise with UKBA on such matters.
Further sources of information
Most of the above information was taken from two websites:
- UKBA guidance on appeals: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/policyandlaw/guidance/ecg/apl
- The Tribunal Service Immigration and Asylum website: www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/courts-and-tribunals/tribunals/immigration-and-asylum - click on National Archives on the right-hand side for the full website. There is lots of information on there, especially under the FAQs section.
2. Visa refusals in the UK:
If you have had an ILR or extension visa refused you should contact me in the first instance. Depending upon the circumstances surrounding the refusal I will either be able to assist or I will signpost you.
UPDATE: 13 Jan - The following information was taken from the UKBA website:
New charges for appealing:
From 19th December 2011, the UK government is introducing new fees for some asylum and immigration appeals. This new policy reflects the government's view that users of the appeals system, who can afford to pay, should contribute to the system's cost. Whilst there are some exemptions to the fee charges, it will apply to those outside the UK who wish to appeal a refusal for a settlement visa or a visit visa. Fees of £80 for a paper consideration and £140 for an oral hearing will be applied to appeals against decisions taken on or after 19 December 2011. For more information about the exemptions, click on the Ministry of Justice website and then click on ‘Immigration and Appeals Tribunals fees guidance’
A new online payment facility will be available shortly. This will allow applicants to make an appeal and payment online for decisions dated from 19 December 2011. Appellants must be able to pay using a MasterCard or a Visa credit or debit card or be submitting an appeal which does not require a fee to be paid. Appellants can ask another person to pay the fee on their behalf using their payment card details, with their permission.Back to top
All information on coming to the UK for a visit can be found at the following link www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/visiting. You can find out if you need a visa, what type of visa you require (i.e general or family) and what supporting documents you need to provide.
Each individual travelling will be required to make an application (including children) and will also need to attend the visa application centre for an appointment to present the application form.
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
- you can fund your flights to and from the UK
- you have somewhere to stay - friends/family will need to provide a letter of support
- you may also have to prove that you intend to return to the UK at the end of the six months, you can do this by providing evidence of your life in your home country e.g family/employment/studies.
If you don’t supply enough evidence, your application may be refused.
How long can my visitor stay in my quarter?
Changes to rules on visitors staying in your quarter mean that you are able to apply for them to stay longer than 28 days in any 93 day period with permission from DIO Ops Accommodation. You must apply in writing, through your Unit Welfare Office, to the Housing Allocations Service Centre (HASC) (or local housing allocation office if serving abroad). You need to include the following information in your letter: Serving soldier's name, Unit, Address of SFA, full name and date of birth of your visitors, reason for visit and length of stay. For more detail refer to JSP 464, Part 1, Annex D to Chapter 1.
There have been a number of cases where DIO Ops Accommodation has refused to allow a visitor to stay for longer than 28 days. If your request has been refused, you should raise it through your chain of command in the first instance.
Can my visitor use NHS facilities?
The following information was taken from the Department of Health website. There is a comprehensive list of people who are exempt from charges as well as lots of other information.
GPs: GPs have a measure of discretion in accepting applications to join their patient lists. It is advisable to approach a GP practice and apply to register on its list of NHS patients. The practice may choose to accept or decline your application. An application may be refused if the practice has reasonable grounds for doing so. A practice would not be able to refuse your application on the grounds of race, gender, social class, age, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, disability or medical condition. If you have difficulty in registering with a GP, you should get in touch with your local primary care trust (PCT).
Hospital Treatment: Under the current regulations, anyone who comes to the UK on holiday or for a short term visit will have to pay for any NHS hospital treatment they may need while they are here, unless they meet the criteria for one of the exemptions from charges. A UK resident’s entitlement to free hospital treatment does not extend to their relatives, even if the relatives are staying in the UK for several weeks or months. If you think you will have to pay for treatment, you are strongly advised to take out health insurance before you travel.
Only emergency treatment is free: If you have an accident or need emergency medical treatment, you will receive that treatment free of charge, regardless of your nationality or place of residence as long as that emergency treatment is delivered at:
- A primary care facility or GP's office
- A hospital emergency room
- A walk-in center providing services similar to an emergency room.
Once you are admitted to a hospital - even for emergency surgery or further emergency treatment - you have to pay for your treatment and medicines. If you are asked to return for a clinic visit follow up after your emergency treatment, you will also have to pay for that.
Visitors for Childminding.
It is not usually possible for a relative to come to the UK to act as a childminder, this is because the visit visa does not allow any kind of employment, whether paid or unpaid. Visit visas have been refused in the past where it was stated that a relative was coming to help look after children during a soldier’s deployment.
Advice and guidance on what the Army can do to help and what sources of support are available is provided in the British Army Guide to the employment and development of serving parents and carers. It is advisable to contact your local HIVE in the first instance should you require childcare.
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