New citizenship rights for members of the Commonwealth serving in the British Armed Forces

Commonwealth soldiers serving in the British Armed Forces abroad can now gain UK citizenship under a change to the rules announced by the Home Office today.

To reflect the commitment and sacrifice made by serviceman from outside the UK in the British forces, they will now be eligible to apply for citizenship despite having been stationed abroad for the majority of their service.

Under the new rules they will no longer be required to complete five years residency in the UK (three years if married to or the civil partner of a British citizen) before applying to become a British citizen. Instead time spent serving anywhere in the world will be counted towards the residency requirement.

Home Secretary John Reid said:

“This change reflects the commitment to the safety and security of the United Kingdom these men and women show every day despite not being stationed on British soil. I’m sure British citizens will welcome this positive recognition of the contribution these troops make to the safety and security of this country and our interests abroad.

“Everyday these members of our armed forces put their lives at risk for the British public. We should recognise that sacrifice and pay tribute to it by acknowledging that service and ensuring that it is recognised in any application for citizenship.”

Serving members of the Brigade of Gurkhas will continue to be treated in accordance with the British Government’s long-standing agreement with the Government of Nepal that they must remain Nepalese citizens until they leave the Brigade of Gurkhas. After they have left the Brigade however they will be able to count their Armed Forces service, at home or abroad, towards their application for UK citizenship.  

Undersecretary of State for Defence Derek Twigg said:

“Military personnel from the Commonwealth have made and continue to make an invaluable contribution to the success of Armed Forces at home and overseas.  Commonwealth personnel, for example, helped deal with the Foot and Mouth outbreak and are currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan”.