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Veterans: Immigration

Ministry of Defence written question – answered on 18th March 2020.

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Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Labour/Co-operative, Harrow West

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what estimate he has made of the number of UK veterans who have served for more than four years and are originally from commonwealth countries and who no longer have the right to remain in the UK; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

The table below shows the total number of Commonwealth Service Personnel who have left the Regular Armed Forces with at least four years’ service in each of the last 10 calendar years.

Calendar Year























Source: Defence Statistics


  1. Regular Armed Forces comprise Full Time service personnel, including Nursing Services, but excluding Full Time Reserve Service (FTRS) personnel, Gurkhas, mobilised Reservists, Military Provost Guard Service (MPGS), Locally Engaged Personnel (LEP), Non-Regular Permanent Staff (NRPS), High Readiness Reserve (HRR) and Expeditionary Forces Institute (EFI) personnel. This data contains both trained and untrained personnel.
  2. Nationality is recorded by the individual service person on the Joint Personnel Administration system at the time of exit. This does not capture personnel with dual nationalities, or personnel whose nationality has changed during the course of their service, or after their departure. Some people leave without making such a declaration which may include some Commonwealth personnel.
  3. Length of service has been calculated using entry date on the Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system. This may include previous periods of service, either in the Regular or Reserve forces, and some personnel may have left the Armed Forces and re-joined since, so they may not currently be a veteran.
  4. Figures have been rounded to the nearest 10 in line with standard statistical policy. Figures ending in 5 are rounded to the nearest 20 to avoid bias.
  5. * A break in the series has been included as a different method for calculating outflow from the Armed Forces was used prior to 2013.

Under the Home Office’s Appendix Armed Forces immigration rules, four years is the minimum length of Service upon discharge for Commonwealth citizens to be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK (more commonly known as settled status). Individuals who choose to return to their country of origin upon discharge and have served for a minimum of four years can submit an application for Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE) the UK within two years of discharge if they meet the Home Office criteria. Separate arrangements exist for those who are medically discharged as a result of their Service and have served less than four years.

Commonwealth citizens can also choose to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen while still serving and can count their Service (including overseas service) towards the Home Office’s five-year UK residency criteria. Naturalisation negates the need to apply for ILR or ILE upon discharge.

UK immigration is a matter for the Home Office, and the Ministry of Defence does not hold information about which former Armed Forces personnel from the Commonwealth have made applications for naturalisation, for ILR or for ILE. Nor does the Ministry of Defence hold information on whether any such application has been successful.

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