Ben Wallace – 2021 Statement on Immigration Fees

The statement made by Ben Wallace, the Secretary of State for Defence, in the House of Commons on 26 May 2021.

There is a long and proud tradition of non-UK service personnel serving in the British armed forces. Together with their British and Irish counterparts, they defend the UK at home and abroad. The British armed forces are renowned and respected around the world and applications from non-UK personnel are always welcome and of a high calibre. The Ministry of Defence is a modern employer and embraces recruiting talent from all elements of society and the advantages of continuing to have non-UK service personnel serving in the British armed forces and the diversity and skills they bring are hugely valued.

Non-UK service personnel are exempt from immigration control during their regular service in the armed forces. Many of these brave men and women who serve our country may wish to stay in the UK after their service and use the skills they have gained during their service to contribute positively to our society. In order to do so they must regularise their immigration status, however, some are deterred from applying to regularise their immigration status because of the costs of doing so. In order to assist those who wish to remain in the UK after their discharge, the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office have already agreed to extend the period that non- UK citizens who are members of the British armed forces can apply for settlement in the UK from 10 weeks before their discharge to 18 weeks before their discharge.

We are also announcing the launch of a public consultation on a draft policy proposal on the settlement fees which apply to non-UK service personnel on leaving the armed forces. The draft policy proposal allows for the Government to waive settlement fees for non-UK service personnel who meet certain criteria should they apply to remain in the UK at the end of their military service.

Currently, the Home Office charges a fee on each individual who wishes to regularise their immigration status by applying for indefinite leave to remain in (or enter) the UK, more commonly known as settled status or settlement.

Under the draft policy proposal, the UK Government would waive the fee charged by the Home Office when the non-UK service person applies for indefinite leave to remain (or enter), if they have served in the regular HM armed forces for at least 12 years and wish to settle in the UK following their service.

We are seeking public opinion on whether the Government waiving settlement fees for service personnel is something which is right and appropriate to do, and also to invite input on the scope of the policy.

The public consultation has been published today and will run for six weeks.