Being a single parent and holding down a full-time job is challenging enough, but if you’re from a Commonwealth country and choose to join the British Army, it takes it to a whole new level. AFF has noticed a significant increase in enquiries from single parent new recruits and we’re concerned that many are not considering, or are not aware of, the potential difficulties. Our F&C specialist, Katherine Houlston, tells us more…

A potential recruit will be required to leave their child behind with a family member for up to a year whilst they complete assessment and training. Unfortunately, AFF has been involved in cases where the arrangements for childcare have broken down – in some cases because of safeguarding concerns.

It’s important to understand that there is no quick way of getting your child to the UK in these circumstances. You’re still required to follow the process outlined in this article, which can take up to 12 weeks. If you’re concerned about the welfare of your child, you should return home to look after them ASAP.

GETTING THE CORRECT VISA

Once you have completed training you can apply for Service Family Accommodation (SFA) and then apply for a visa for your child/children to enter the UK. You’ll need to apply for a settlement visa so that UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) can conduct the necessary checks to ensure the child is legally able to leave their home country.

You’ll be required to prove that you have sole responsibility for that child before they can be issued with a visa. The application process isn’t straightforward as it requires you to submit a lot of supporting documentation electronically. Your child will also need to attend an appointment at the nearest visa application centre, which could be many miles away.

ENSURE YOU HAVE APPROPRIATE CHILDCARE

As a serving soldier you may need to deploy at short-notice and can often be away. If you don’t have family members in the UK who you can safely leave your children with then you will need to hire a nanny through a registered organisation.

You can’t rely on bringing your parents or family members to the UK to look after them. Whilst UKVI allows visits for up to six months from family members, it will not allow visits for the purposes of childcare. Since the rules were tightened up visit visas from some countries are regularly refused.

HOW CAN AFF HELP?

The F&C section on the AFF website has details on the application process and a downloadable guide with all the information about proving sole-responsibility. AFF cannot complete the application for you, so if you require a lot of support it’s best to speak to a qualified OISC solicitor or advisor to make the application on your behalf.

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