Dr Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what guidance is provided to Commonwealth Service personnel on discharge from the UK armed forces on the steps they must take to regularise their immigration status when seeking to exercise their right to remain in the UK after having served for at least four years; and how that guidance has changed since that right to remain was first granted. 
[Due for Answer on 22 June.]
The Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey): When Commonwealth citizens (and Gurkhas) are enlisted in the UK Armed Forces the Home Office grant them Exempt from Immigration Control status under section 8(4) of the Immigration Act 1971. This is valid for the duration of their Regular Service, and they receive a letter from the Home Office advising them of this and that on discharge they must regularise their UK immigration status or leave the UK.
The Home Office has immigration rules specific to the Armed Forces – the Appendix Armed Forces – under which they can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK on discharge if they meet all necessary criteria including having served for a minimum of four years. The Home Office allows applications to be submitted up to 10 weeks before discharge.
The Army has produced guidance for Units since 2004 which summarises these immigration rules including the need to regularise immigration status on discharge or leave the UK. Units must also notify the Home Office when a Commonwealth citizen (or Gurkha) is being discharged so their Exempt status can be cancelled, and the individual signs the notification to indicate they understand the need to regularise their status At that point the Home Office will write to the individual to advise them that they have 28 days from days from date of discharge to either regularise their UK immigration status, if they have not already submitted an application, or leave the UK.
Although the Guide is regularly updated to reflect any changes to the immigration rules it has always included the requirement for regularising immigration status on discharge and to notify the Home Office. The guidance is used by all three Services. Information is also included within Ministry of Defence and single Service policy documents such as Joint Service Publication 100 – Defence Holistic Transition Policy and the Service Leavers Guide which is issued to all personnel on discharge. These give clear instruction to both the Chain of Command and the individual about their responsibilities.