Commonwealth veterans’ families subject to ‘unjust’ visa fees, MPs say

Ministers are subjecting the families of Commonwealth military veterans to “deeply unjust” visa fees after pleas to waive the costly sums for spouses and children were rejected, two MPs have argued.

Labour’s Dan Jarvis and the former Conservative minister Johnny Mercer criticised the government for removing the £2,389 immigration bill only for long-serving veterans.

The Ministry of Defence and the Home Office had planned to announce the fee waiver, which would have applied to Nepali, Fijian and other Commonwealth veterans who had served six years or more on Wednesday.

But by excluding partners and dependents, the MPs said on Tuesday night it would still leave veterans facing thousands of pounds of Home Office bills to resolve their family’s immigration status when they are discharged from service.

“We remain concerned that families continue to be sidelined – this amounts to a 25% discount on a £10,000 visa fee bill for a family of four,” the two MPs said. “It is deeply unjust for the government to profit from them exercising their right to remain in the country for which they risked their lives.”

The two MPs, both veterans, went public the night before the announcement, arguing that people who had a “long and proud history” of serving in the British armed forces would still be poorly treated.

Britain has long used foreign-born soldiers in its armed forces. Nearly 7% of troops come from outside the UK, most notably Nepali Gurkhas and Fijians, who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Veterans who served a minimum period had the right to UK citizenship, but bureaucratic errors, poor advice and increased feeshave left some as illegal immigrants in the country for which they once served.

One, Taitusi Ratacaucau, was told he needed to pay more than £50,000 to cover NHS hospital bills after an emergency operation to remove a brain tumour in 2020 because he was no longer considered a British citizen.

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Ratacaucau and seven others tried and…

Read full story at the guardian.com

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