Joining the British Army as a Commonwealth citizen

It is many’s dream to join the prestigious British Army. In fact Commonwealth soldiers serving in the British armed forces have a long and proud history. Due to changes in legislation it has however become increasingly difficult for Commonwealth citizens to join the armed forces at present.

British armyThe Army now requires all commonwealth citizens to be resident in the UK with Indefinite Leave to Remain or have lived there for 5 years at the date of application for entry to the army. You must also not have been out of the UK for a continuous period of more than 6 months during this 5 year period.

This narrows the pool of eligible applicants from Commonwealth Countries considerable at present. It is not possible anymore to apply directly without having lived in the UK first, unless of course there is for example an ancestral entitlement to British citizenship based on one’s heritage. The residential requirement does not apply if you have British citizenship.

With this in mind, it means you would first need to immigrate to the UK for 5 years before you are able to apply to join the army. You can go over to the UK on an ancestral permit for example(a 5 year permit) or the Tier 2 work permit scheme, but will need to explore other immigration options first, before you are able to eventually join the armed forces.

If you are however currently serving in the armed forces, once you have completed 5 years continuous residency in the UK, and meet the other applicable requirements, you can apply for British citizenship.

The good news is that at present you can combine the time that you have served in the armed forces with another permit, for example a working holiday or ancestral visa, provided there was not a gap between the two statuses. We regularly assist with applications of this nature.

In terms of your dependents, please note that you can apply for your spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner, and of course children under 18 and dependent on you, for dependency visas. They have different options open to them in terms of the applications, depending on how long the soldier has already served in the armed forces at the date the dependent wants to apply.

Eventually dependents will be granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK if all the conditions, including the residence requirements, are met. They will then be eligible to apply for British Citizenship in most cases after 12 months.

Please feel free to contact us for more information, and for advice in your unique circumstances.

JP Breytenbach

Director of BIC, Breytenbachs Immigration Consultants Limited. or