Last week on Friday, the Citizenship (Armed Forces) Bill completed its final stages in the House of Commons after receiving cross-party support and has now moved on to the House of Lords for further scrutiny. The Citizenship (Armed Forces) Bill will make it easier for Commonwealth-born members of the Armed Forces to claim British citizenship in the UK. The private member’s bill introduced by Conservative MP Jonathan Lord, intends to remedy the “discrepancy” in the law that means it can take longer for some members of the Armed Forces to become British citizens.
Current Rules on British Citizenship Disadvantage Members of Armed Forces
Currently, foreign and Commonwealth citizens in the Armed Forces may be at a disadvantage because of their time served overseas. Existing rules state that overseas applicants for British citizenship must have lived in the UK for five years. Applicants who are members of the Armed Forces may be at a disadvantage as the rules state they must have been in the UK on day one of the 5 year qualifying period for naturalisation. However, these soldiers, sailors and airmen are often immediately posted overseas after they sign up and as a result may have to wait longer than other applicants before they can claim British citizenship.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Friday, Conservative MP Jonathan Lord stated:
“The principles enshrined in the armed forces covenant between the nation and our armed forces community make it clear that those who serve should face no disadvantage as a result of that service.”
Citizenship (Armed Forces) Bill: Changes to the Law
The legislation intends to affect around 200 members or former members of the Armed Forces, many of whom are likely to come from countries such as Fiji, Jamaica, South Africa, Ghana and Nepal. The bill would allow immigration officials to waive the minimum five-year threshold for citizenship applications from Commonwealth born servicemen and women as well as veterans. Under the changes the Secretary of the State will be given discretion to overlook the current requirement.
Immigration Minister Mark Harper stated that “the change is indeed small but sensible, and it is not insignificant.” He went on to state:
“Not all of those cases will require the discretion but where they do, and even if there was only one case, for somebody who has served in our armed forces it is right that they should benefit and I am very pleased this Bill will do that.”
Immigration Lawyers for UK Armed Forces Visas
If you are a member of the Armed Forces or your family member is in the Armed Forces and you wish to know more about applying for settlement or leave to remain, you should seek legal advice from expert UK Immigration Solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to ensure that you know your options and how you can proceed to the next steps. Feel free to contact us to discuss your immigration situation and we will assess your case and provide you with options.