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What to know about UK Armed Forces | Exempt from Immigration Control | ICS Legal

Section 8(4) of the Immigration Act 1971 exempts from immigration control certain members of Armed Forces. A person is to be regarded as exempt from control (except for the provisions relating to deportation) so long as he is: a member of the home forces (HM Forces) subject to service law (Royal Navy, British Army or Royal Air Force); or a member of a Commonwealth force or a force raised under the law of an associated state, colony, protectorate or protected state who is undergoing or due to undergo training in the United Kingdom with anybody, contingent or detachment of the home forces including NATO forces; or serving or posted for service in the United Kingdom as a member of a visiting force including NATO forces; or someone posted for service as a member of an international headquarters or defence organisation.

Only serving members of Armed Forces can be exempt from control under Section 8(4). Dependents of members of the armed forces are not exempt from immigration control, however dependants of military personnel of NATO and Commonwealth countries (or those who also qualify under Section 8(4) of the Immigration Act 1971) posted for service in the UK are exempt from the requirement to provide biometrics as a matter of policy. This exemption does not apply when the applicant is a dependent of an armed forces member coming to the UK for training.

Armed forces who are not exempt from immigration control who are invited to undergo training in the UK provided by H.M. Forces (this can be in tandem with attendance at a UK University but will be endorsed by the MOD or military Unit) or invited to become familiarised with military equipment being supplied by British firms, overseen by the MOD are subject to immigration control but are not required to seek entry under the points based system. In all cases, such individuals should be able to supply evidence from a UK based MOD / HM Forces sponsor demonstrating their requirement to be in the UK.

If an applicant wishes to enter the UK to enlist in HM Forces they should initially enter the UK on a visit visa. Once they have formally enlisted they will need to apply to UKBA to have their extant leave suspended and replaced with an exempt vignette. 

A person who is admitted as exempt from control will remain exempt provided he continues to fall within the provisions of Section 8(4) of the 1971 Act. A person admitted in another capacity (for example, visitor, student) who wishes to join HM Forces must follow the process below:

  1. Once the applicant has been enlisted into HM Forces, he should submit his passport to the UK Border Agency (with a covering note from the military unit, no application form required).
  2. When submitted, the passport of the person should be endorsed with the suspension of any limited leave to enter/remain.

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