UK Eliminating Visa Fees for Non-UK Military Personnel

The United Kingdom’s armed forces have long been bolstered by volunteers from all corners of the former empire. While the Gurkhas always attract the most attention, citizens of countries like Australia, Canada, Jamaica and South Africa also play a major role in the British armed forces which, altogether, have around 9,000 non-UK citizens in uniform. Despite their contribution, however, veterans leaving the military have to pay £2,389 ($3,200) in visa fees to go on “indefinite leave” if they wish to settle in the United Kingdom.

On 23 February, the British government announced that it will be waiving these fees for all Gurkhas and foreign veterans who have served in the armed forces for at least six years or have been discharged due to sustaining illness or injuries while serving. Former service members who have not yet “regularized” their immigration status will also be eligible for the waiver.

Member of the 1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles (UK Mod)

Speaking in London, British defense secretary Ben Wallace said that:

“Last year we sought views from non-UK personnel about how we can best support and recognize their incredible contribution to the UK armed forces. I am delighted to announce that eligible personnel and veterans who have served for a period of six years or more, and wish to settle in the UK, will no longer have to pay the visa fee. […] It is only right that we have taken this important step to express our sincere gratitude to the brave men and women from outside of the UK who have made such a valuable contribution to the defense of this country.”

Statements by British Home Secretary Priti Patel mirrored these sentiments.

The waiver is expected to go into effect in Spring once the prerequisite legislation is passed. The decision can be traced back to a public consultation held by the British government last year which sought policy proposals for how the United Kingdom can better support its non-UK veterans. The initiative received over 6,000 responses from the public.