As well as providing tailored advice and guidance to serving families via our mailbox, AFF’s Foreign & Commonwealth team works with units, the wider chain of command and many different support organisations.

“Our presentations are a particularly important part of our job to help ensure that as many people as possible are aware of the service we provide,” says AFF F&C Specialist, Katherine Houlston.

Briefing soldiers

“We’ve been delivering presentations to units for many years, usually at the request of those with large numbers of non-UK soldiers. Recently, we’ve been targeting Phase 1 and Phase 2 training establishments to inform new recruits about UK immigration rules and some of the challenges they may face during and after service.

“These briefs are often the first time that they become aware of the minimum income requirement to bring their family to the UK,” explains Katherine. “During the pandemic, with support from unit staff, we offered presentations virtually and have continued to do so to reach a far wider audience than we would have previously hoped for.”

Ange Smyth, Unit Welfare Officer at 3 Royal School of Military Engineering Regiment, was grateful for the support given to its F&C trainees. “AFF’s F&C team’s dedication has been outstanding. Through increased knowledge, trainees are better equipped to make informed decisions and plan for their future with confidence, knowing that AFF’s team is available for advice and guidance,” she says.

Educating the army

Katherine believes that having the support of unit welfare staff is imperative: “It’s really important that the chain of command understands the challenges that non-UK soldiers may face, such as the additional financial burden of saving for visas or the many different ways it’s possible to end up on the wrong immigration route.

“We’re proud to be regularly invited to many of the defence and army network conferences, including the Fijian, Multicultural, Rastafari networks and the Muslim Association,” adds Katherine. “These provide us with an ideal opportunity to give updates on policy changes affecting the non-UK community.”

Supporting abuse victims

AFF provides a unique service for victims of domestic abuse. Funding by the Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund enables us to complete and submit applications on behalf of spouses. “To ensure that organisations who work with domestic abuse victims are aware of the service, we present at the Defence Specialist Welfare Worker course and also recently to the Royal Military Police.”

International reach

In 2020 we gave a Facebook Live immigration brief on behalf of Marama Alliance UK. This initial session was attended by 270 people and has since been viewed a further 11,000 times. “We’ve continued working closely with MAUK,” explains Katherine. “These sessions are brilliantly organised and always well attended.”

Suliana Lotawa is one of the key members of the MAUK team, she says: “These sessions have had a tremendous impact on the Fijian and wider non-UK community. They’ve brought about greater awareness and understanding of the rules and we’ll continue to work with AFF to make sure the community is well informed.”

If you’d like AFF’s F&C team to visit your unit or location, get in touch at

Main photo: Marama Alliance’s mission is to address the issues facing Fijian women in the UK. They do this through encouraging participation in all areas of life in the UK and advocating for improved access to information and services.

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