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Two MPs are reportedly trying to force the UK government to waive UK visa fees for foreign nationals who have served the British military and want to remain in the country. Labour’s Dan Jarvis and Conservative MP, Johnny Mercer, both of whom are army veterans, have put forward an amendment to the UK Immigration and Borders Bill.
The amendment urges the government to scrap the current £2,389 UK visa fee for foreign army personnel who have given five years’ service or more to the British army. Jarvis and Mercer argue that ‘ministers should look after those who have loyally served Britain’.
The dependents of former servicemen and women also have to pay UK visa fees, which means that it can cost a family of four nearly £10,000 to remain in the UK. According to official figures, 5,110 Commonwealth citizens were serving in the armed forces in 2020. Annually, approximately 500 leave the UK, while those who choose to remain have to pay visa fees.
Government promise made
The government has reportedly promised to tackle the issue, according to a report published by the BBC, and launched a consultation earlier this year. The initial consultation proposed scrapping UK visa fees for foreign armed forces personnel who had given 12 years’ service or more.
However, the proposed provision did not include family members and it would not be applied retrospectively. Jarvis and Mercer argued that the proposed eligibility period of 12 years’ service was ‘far too long’, and urged the government to ‘right this wrong’.
The amendment proposed by the two MPs would see UK visa fees waived after five years’ service. Plus, the dependents of veterans would also be included in visa fee exemptions.
Meanwhile, in a separate proposal, Labour has put forward an amendment to scrap the fees after four years of service.
Help 10% of Commonwealth personnel
According to Labour, the government’s current proposal to scrap fees after 12 years’ service would help just 10% of Commonwealth personnel leaving the armed forces.
In addition to Jarvis and Mercer calling for UK visa fees to be scrapped for foreign veterans, two of the largest veterans’ charities, the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes, have also been campaigning to get visa fees scrapped.
Mr Jarvis said: “It’s time for actions, not words. The government must start honouring its promises to the armed forces.”
Meanwhile Mr Mercer, a former defence minister, said that waiving the fees would cost the government relatively little.
He said: “It’s inconceivable that the Home Office and Ministry of Defence are dragging their feet on an issue that has widespread support.”
In an interview earlier this year, the Chief of the Defence Staff until 2013, Lord Richards said: “To ask servicemen and women to pay for the privilege to live in a country they fought for or were prepared to defend is absolutely out of order.”
Grateful to foreign servicemen and women
A statement issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said: “We are hugely grateful for the contribution of all those who serve in the armed forces.”
“We will be publishing a response to our consultation on UK visa fees in due course,” the MoD statement added.
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