AFF received more than 250 enquiries last year from non-UK families about postings overseas.

Concerns over expired visas and home country passports, as well as confusion about what’s required to travel to and remain in the location, can cause worry.

AFF F&C Specialist Katherine Houlston recommends that before submitting a preference for an assignment overseas, non-UK families should be fully aware of the challenges that might crop up.

Do I need a visa to travel to and remain in the country we are posted to?

Non-UK families may need a different visa to that required for a British family and it may take extra time to get one. Unfortunately, this information is not usually made clear before accepting an overseas posting and for EU countries, the situation is more complicated since Brexit.

It’s difficult to find out exactly what’s required for each location, even if you’re moving as part of a unit.

“I’m creating a simple guide for each location which will be available via our website,” says Katherine, “the cases highlighted below show that families are not getting the correct information.”

What should I do if my passport is due to expire whilst I’m overseas?

You should never let your passport expire whilst overseas. Check that it can be renewed from the overseas location by contacting your Embassy/High Commission in that country. If it can’t, it may be easier to apply for a new one before you travel if there’s time.

Katherine explains: “A soldier in Belize experienced this issue when his wife’s German passport needed to be renewed so she could get a new visa.

“It couldn’t be done in Belize or the German Embassy in the UK, so their only option was to travel to Singapore at personal expense to renew it.”

What happens if my visa is due to expire whilst I’m overseas?

If you have limited leave issued for five years which is due to expire during your overseas posting you should be eligible to apply for indefinite leave (ILE) up to 28 days before your visa is due to expire, but you will need to have taken the Life in the UK test before you travel, which is only available in the UK or Cyprus.

You may also need an English language certificate; tests for this are available in most overseas locations but not all. It’s best to check as it may be easier to take it before you leave the UK.

If you don’t have a visa or it’s due to expire shortly before you’re posted, or if it wasn’t originally issued for five years, please get in touch with us at fcsupport@aff.org.uk


Belize has recently come to our attention as non- UK spouses need a visa to transit via the USA. The length of visa issued depends on the nationality, so whilst a British spouse will get a five-year transit visa, a Mexican national, for example, will only receive a three-month visa. This seriously affects the ability to travel to the UK at short notice. One family facing this situation said: “It would be beneficial if those involved with overseas assignments had more knowledge and understanding of issues concerning visas and immigration control.”

Non-UK families have experienced issues in Gibraltar since before Brexit. Malvern Muteta contacted us as he had been advised he would need either British Citizenship or a Schengen visa to reside there. This is in order to enter Spain in case of medical emergencies. As the Schengen visa is only issued for three months and can only be applied for at the Spanish Embassy in the UK, it seems the only way Malvern can remain in Gibraltar is to apply and pay for Citizenship. He says: “I feel that I’m losing time and money because of having a different passport and I don’t want a situation where I potentially miss out on my preferred choice of posting.”

AFF finds that this information is not relayed to families until they have accepted their posting or are already in Gibraltar.

Non-UK spouses heading to Canada on assignment are not being given clear visa guidance. Kushboo (main photo) ended up on a visit visa because the information she was provided with was unclear. The visa does not allow her to work and doesn’t cover the length of her posting. She said: “Moving to Canada was not easy for me because it’s affecting my career but I agreed on the understanding that I could work and remain financially independent. I haven’t been able to apply for any jobs and it makes me feel helpless and miserable.”    

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