IF YOU’RE a Foreign & Commonwealth family, there can be additional things to consider when looking for a job. Katherine Houlston, AFF F&C specialist, answers some of your concerns…

As an F&C spouse, can I work in the UK?
Yes, if you have a valid visa which has been issued for more than six months. If there was a restriction on the ability to work in the UK, then it would say so on the visa itself. All spouses in the UK under the armed forces immigration rules are eligible to work in the UK. Here at AFF, we’re often asked for evidence that a spouse can work in the UK. There’s no such evidence available.

What checks will an employer carry out?
An employer will need to check the validity of your visa/Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) and will make a copy. If you don’t have indefinite leave, the employer will have to carry out follow-up checks before the expiry date of your visa.

What if my application to extend my visa hasn’t been processed yet?
As long as your application was made prior to the visa expiring, your existing right to work will continue until it has been determined. This is called an ‘in-time’ application. Your employer needs to request a right to work check from the Home Office, which is done via the Employers Checking Service and should only take five working days. If the application was made after your visa expired, your right to work won’t continue because you’re then considered to be an overstayer. If you continue to work, you’ll be committing a criminal offence.

Do I need a BRP to work?
No, BRPs have been issued in the UK to everyone granted permission to remain since July 2015. However, there are a significant number of you who were granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) prior to this date who still have visas in your passports in the form of a ‘vignette’. There are also a large number granted either limited or indefinite leave during an overseas assignment and who were given a vignette, not a BRP. Vignettes will still demonstrate a right to work while they remain valid and whilst the passport remains valid. If your vignette is in an expired passport, you’ll need to apply for a BRP to work. However, the guidance issued to employers mostly refers to those with BRPs. The information about visas in passports is hidden further down the 2015 guidance and doesn’t seem to be mentioned at all in the 2018 guidance.

What if I have Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE) on a visa in my passport?
ILE is the same as ILR except that it is issued out of the UK and is unique to spouses of soldiers because they can count their time overseas as residence in the UK. Many Gurkha spouses have ILE in their passports. The vignette always has an expiry date that usually – but not always – matches the expiry of the passport. Although it remains valid, even after the expiry date on the visa most employers won’t employ someone who has an ILE which looks like it has expired. In these circumstances we would recommend that you apply for a BRP card instead. If your ILE is in an expired passport, you’ll need to apply for a BRP to work.

How do I get a BRP if I don’t have one?
Apply at gov.uk/biometric-residence-permits/replace-visa-brp – if you already have indefinite leave, the cost is £229. If you have limited leave, the cost is £161. However, we would recommend that you contact us first before going ahead with an application.

What rights do I have if I feel I’m being unfairly treated?
Employers who fail to check the immigration status of an employee could be subject to a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per worker. However, this doesn’t give them a right to directly or indirectly discriminate against you based on your nationality or race. If you believe that you’re been discriminated against by an employer, a prospective employer or an employment agency because of your race, you may bring a complaint before an employment tribunal, or an industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland.

F&C spouse Trudy Agyei shares how AFF helped her…

“AFF was very helpful to me and my daughter when we applied for a visa to settle with my husband who is serving. We were refused twice but AFF stepped in and, with the right documentation, we were granted a five-year settlement visa. Thanks to AFF, my family has been united,” explained Trudy.

A month after coming to the UK, Trudy signed up with an online recruitment agency and applied for several jobs, securing an interview for a credit controller role with a company. “I started working in March this year. I’ve got a visa which allows me to work, so I didn’t have any issues – all I had to do was present my BRP and that was proof enough.

“One of my biggest challenges was getting my National Insurance number, which I’ve finally got. My husband couldn’t apply for the 30-hour childcare because of this, so we’ve been funding part of the fees since our daughter started pre-school. Hopefully we’ll get the 30 hours next term.”

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