Separation is part and parcel of army life, but how do overseas deployments affect non-UK families in particular?
Here AFF’s F&C team, made up of qualified immigration advisors, outlines some recent cases illustrating the unique pressures faced by non-UK families when a soldier is deployed overseas.
In March last year the prioritisation of emergency visas for Ukrainians fleeing the war led to extended delays in obtaining visas to enter the UK from all other countries. Processing times increased from three months to a minimum of six, at a time when many soldiers were being deployed.
AFF started to receive an influx of emails from couples desperate to be reunited in the UK before the soldier left on deployment. In close collaboration with the Regional Command non-UK caseworker and the Home Office, an agreement was reached which allowed for spouse entry visas to be fast-tracked if the soldier was due to deploy – more than 70 cases were fast-tracked.
Saiful contacted us in May 2022, he had applied for his wife to enter the UK three months earlier and was then informed it could take a further six months. After being told he could be deployed to Poland at any time, he was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to see his wife before he left. The case was escalated and his wife was able to join him in July.
SUPPORT FOR NEW MOTHERS
Family support is important for both practical and emotional reasons and it’s common to want close family members to come to stay after the birth of a baby.
When one parent is deployed, this support becomes even more important, especially if there are other young children who need looking after.
Unfortunately for non-UK families whose relatives require a visa to enter the UK, this support can’t be relied on. It can be very difficult to get a visa approved for a family member due to the Home Office’s strict requirements.
The F&C team is regularly contacted for help with visit visa refusals, particularly when the soldier is deployed.
There’s often not much we can do to help because in many cases the evidence the Home Office needs simply isn’t available. However, if you’re having difficulties getting a visit visa for a family member, contact email@example.com
CAN I RETURN HOME WHILE MY SOLDIER SPOUSE IS DEPLOYED?
Many spouses choose to return to families in their home country instead of remaining in the UK when soldiers are deployed. We’re often asked if this will affect future applications.
Many UK immigration categories do impose a requirement that the applicant for Indefinite Leave to Remain must not be outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-month period, but this rule does not apply to those on the family route.
The family route allows for caseworkers to use discretion when considering the length of time that has been spent out of the UK and away from the sponsoring spouse.
If you’re applying for indefinite leave and have spent a number of months out of the UK and apart from your sponsoring spouse, you should get in touch with the team and we’ll advise on the evidence to provide. However, your visa will not be refused if you return to your home country during your soldier’s deployment.
You should bear in mind that if you’re pregnant and you choose to have your child in your home country, the child will only be born British if one of the parents is British.
DOES THE SOLDIER HAVE TO BE IN THE UK WHEN I SUBMIT AN APPLICATION TO REMAIN?
Thankfully long gone are the days when spouses were only able to submit applications to remain in person at the Home Office with their sponsoring soldier – leading to many spouses becoming overstayers when the soldier was deployed.
However, whilst online forms have made submitting visa applications easier, it’s still necessary to gather the supporting documents (such as payslips, bank statements and a unit letter to confirm that the financial requirement is met) and there remains a requirement for the sponsoring soldier to sign the consent form.
You can complete the online form before the deployment, but you can’t submit and make payment more than 28 days before your limited leave visa expires.
If you’re struggling to complete the form due to a deployment, please feel free to get in touch with our team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Main photo: Saiful Islam and his wife