There has much been much talk about future housing in recent months and the changes to the cohabitation rules, but what does this mean for non-UK national families? Do you have the same eligibility as UK nationals or does your visa status affect your choices? Katherine Houlston, AFF F&C specialist, has been finding out…
You may be unsure about the rules surrounding eligibility for Service Family Accommodation (SFA) if you’re a non-UK family. Essentially a soldier can apply for SFA up to 16 weeks prior to the expected date of arrival of their spouse in the UK – there’s no requirement for any visa documentation to be shown during the SFA application process. Ideally a soldier will be given an offer of a quarter and can use the address for the visa application. However, to occupy the property, they’ll need to have evidence that you’ve been issued a visa or entry clearance, which is valid for more than six months – not a visit visa. As no one has responsibility for checking visa status prior to move-in, you could end up unknowingly occupying SFA when you’re not entitled to it. We’ve been raising this issue with policy teams at Army HQ for more than a year and we’ll continue working with them to seek a resolution.
In April this year, the MOD’s policy on cohabitation in SFA in the UK changed. If your soldier has served for four or more years and can demonstrate they’re in an established long-term relationship, they’ll now be eligible to apply to cohabit with you in surplus SFA, where it’s available. But does it apply to non-UK partners? The answer is yes, as long as you have a valid visa for the UK. It’s possible to apply for a visa to enter as an unmarried partner as long as you can demonstrate that you’ve lived together for two years. The two years doesn’t have to have been completed immediately before the date of application if you can demonstrate why you’re not currently living together. If you need information about the type of evidence to provide, contact us.
The ‘right to rent’ scheme, which requires landlords to check the immigration status of tenants, was introduced in England in 2016. Landlords can be fined for allowing people without a right to rent, to occupy their property. For information on how you can prove your eligibility or if you’re having problems accessing private rental because of your immigration status, contact us or visit the F&C pages at aff.org.uk
You’re not eligible for council housing in the UK if your immigration status means you have ‘no recourse to public funds’. Soldiers on discharge who have been granted indefinite leave to remain (ILR) are eligible but unfortunately if you or other family members don’t have ILR, then the local authority has no legal obligation to house you. Family members have to spend five years on a dependant visa before they can apply for ILR, even if the soldier discharges during this time. You can only legally occupy the house if tenancy has been granted solely to the person with ILR or British citizenship, as these people are able to access public funds. We’ve been contacted by soldiers on discharge who are being told that their families aren’t eligible to be housed with them, but it also appears that local authorities interpret the rules differently, so be careful that you’re not breaching your conditions if you’re allocated a house.
One soldier had been offered a two-bedroom property for himself and his British daughter. His wife and two other children were deemed as not eligible, so the offer of accommodation did not include them. However, when he applied to different authority, they were all included on the housing allocation and were given a house to suit their needs. We approached the NRPF Network, who explained that the rules relating to homelessness assistance for mixed households are very complex.
The following links may help but do seek advice if you’re faced with this problem on your soldier’s discharge.