If the stresses and strains of army life take their toll on your marriage as a Foreign & Commonwealth couple, there are lots of extra things to consider if you want to stay in the UK after you’ve gone your separate ways. AFF’s F&C specialist, Katherine Houlston, talks you through your next steps…

Can I remain here after my relationship has broken down?

If you have limited leave to remain in the UK, your visa is only valid if your relationship is subsisting. Unless you make another application to remain in the UK on a different immigration route, you’ll be expected to return to your country of nationality. You won’t be able to apply for indefinite leave under the armed forces route regardless of your length of time on that route. If you have indefinite leave (either ILR or ILE) then your relationship status does not affect your ability to remain in the UK.

Can my partner have me removed from the UK? 

No. If the Home Office is informed of your breakdown, they will send you a letter saying that you should apply for a new visa. They will usually give you at least 28 days to do this. Even if you don’t have a valid visa, you should still make an application to remain, as having a valid visa isn’t always a requirement.

What can I apply for if I want to remain in the UK? 

This will depend on your circumstances but in general, the following applies: l If your relationship has broken down due to domestic abuse (DA) you may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain under the DA rules regardless of your length of time in the UK. There are more details at aff. org.uk; l If you have British children in the UK and you’ll be their primary carer, you may be able to apply to remain as the parent of British children (there’s further information on the opposite page); l If you’ve lived in the UK legally for ten years you may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave on the long residence route; l If none of the above apply then you may qualify to remain under human rights legislation but it will depend on your circumstances.

If I have British children, will I be eligible for indefinite leave or British citizenship? 

No. If you have a limited leave visa and you’re applying to remain in the UK as a primary carer of a British child, you will only be eligible for limited leave on a ten-year route to settlement. You’ll be granted a visa for two and a half years and will be expected to apply again every two and a half years until you have been in the UK for ten years (unless you qualify for ILR in the long residence route during this time).

How much is the application?

It’s currently £1,033, however, it’s possible to apply for a fee waiver if you can prove that you are destitute.

Will I be eligible for benefits with the new visa? 

Not unless you can prove that you’re destitute. This is a separate application and requires detailed evidence to be submitted showing all of your income and outgoings. A spouse with a notice to vacate Service Family Accommodation (SFA), who is not able to work and has no other income or savings should be able to meet this requirement.

How long will it take?

It’s likely to take more than six months for the application to be processed.

Will I have to leave the quarter before my new visa is issued? 

In most cases it’s not possible to extend your notice to vacate date, so you’re likely to become an ‘irregular occupant’ and will have to pay rent and any court charges. You’re advised to speak to your local authority regarding your options, but you won’t be able to apply for alternative housing until you have a valid visa. You must keep the Loss of Entitlement Team informed.

How can the local authority help me? 

There are provisions which require local authorities to provide some people who

have no recourse to public funds (NRPF) with housing and/or financial support in order to prevent homelessness or destitution. This applies where there’s a child in need (because the child is homeless or the parent cannot afford to meet the family’s basic living needs). To request help, contact your local council’s children’s social services department. Alternatively, you can request an appointment with a housing advice officer to talk about available support.

I am an EU national; can I remain in the UK if my relationship breaks down? 

Yes, but you’re unlikely to be eligible for benefits or local authority support unless you’re working in the UK or are eligible for permanent residency through the EU settlement scheme.

What happens if my relationship breaks down whilst I’m posted overseas? 

If you have a valid UK visa, you’re entitled to return to the UK in line with the policy which applies to all spouses. If you don’t have a UK visa you will need to contact AFF.

Where to go for help

The F&C pages on the AFF website have lots of detailed guidance on separation and divorce. If you need specific advice, contact the team via aff.org.uk

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