A cross party group of MP’s, led by Conservative Richard Graham and Labour’s Madeleine Moon, have written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid calling for the abolition of visa fees for Commonwealth servicemen and women in the British armed forces.
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. 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.
This has created a situation where Commonwealth citizens are often forced to choose between leaving the UK 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 provided £36,000 in grants for visa fees last year alone.
The letter, which has been signed by more than 130 different MPs s, calls on the Home Secretary to recognise those who have served in the UK armed forces by abolishing visa costs for them and their families.
Gloucester MP Richard Graham said: “These men and women are willing to put their life on the line for our country and the current situation doesn’t reflect our and the nation’s respect for them. The changes we propose are in line with the Armed Forces Covenant and would make a real difference to those who’ve shown such commitment to the UK.”
Madeleine Moon MP said: “It used to be said an army marches on its stomach. Today an army marches knowing their family is safe and secure. We owe that level of security and confidence to Commonwealth soldiers.”
Matthew Seward, Assistant Director for Public Affairs and Public Policy 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 MPs across the House and from different parties 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.”