Before the new Armed Forces immigration rules came into effect last December, there were many concerned families contacting AFF’s Foreign & Commonwealth (F&C) team. So Katherine Houlston, AFF F&C Specialist, visited Cyprus to answer questions from Service personnel and their families…

 

PRESENTATIONS and Q&As were held around the island with more than 100 families and support staff attending.

Many of you took the opportunity to speak to Katherine on a one-to-one basis with your individual concerns.

Katherine found that the majority of you had already received your visas or were in the process of applying. She explains what she found: “A lot of work had been done by welfare teams to ensure that spouses had the information and assistance they needed to make their applications in time, however, the level of assistance did vary across the island and some families were struggling to understand the process.”

Citizenship and the new English language requirement

Many of the questions Katherine received were about citizenship and the new English Language rules.

Whilst gaining citizenship is a personal choice and not a requirement, AFF is keen to support spouses and soldiers going through the proces.

Katherine says: “Now that most spouses have indefinite visas they are interested in the next step – how to apply for citizenship. Unfortunately that process has become more challenging with the introduction of the English Language requirement.”

How can I meet the new requirements?

You and your soldier both need to take the Life in the UK test and an English Language test at level B1.

You are exempt from this requirement if you have a degree taught in English or you are from a majority English speaking country.

Army support

Katherine and the new Regional Manager for Cyprus, Esther Thomas, held meetings with Major Muir Sterling from 55 Army Education Centre (AEC) to find out what the Army is doing to assist those wishing to gain citizenship.

Maj Sterling said: “It’s important to support military personnel and their dependants to achieve their aspiration of settling permanently in the UK or gaining UK citizenship.

“To help the Cyprus based community meet the new requirements we are running an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) qualification and approved tests, in addition to hosting the Life in the UK tests which are already on offer at the AEC.”

Although your soldier with a Literacy Level 1 qualification should be at the required standard already, they will still need to sit the test unless exempt.

For further information, log on to www.aff.org.uk or speak to Maj Sterling on +357 2596 3535.

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FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

During her trip to Cyprus, Katherine spoke to the Fijian High Commissioner (HC) to the UK, Solo Mara, who was visiting Fijian families. The HC is very aware of the issues that you and your soldier can face with visas, particularly on discharge. His office is contacted regularly by families seeking assistance and advice and as a result, the HC is setting up a support group. He plans to work more closely with his colleagues from other Commonwealth countries which have large numbers of soldiers in the British Army to share best practice and advice. He was keen to develop a relationship with AFF and offered support with raising issues to ministers.

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