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UK waives five-year residency requirement for Commonwealth military recruits

UK waives five-year  residency requirement for  Commonwealth military recruits
SVG’s High Commissioner to the UK Cenio E. Lewis


Persons from Commonwealth countries who have not lived in the United Kingdom (UK) for a minimum of five years are once again being given the opportunity to join the armed forces there.

This according to a BBC report released yesterday.

What the announcement means, is that Vincentians who wish to join the British armed forces will be able to do more easily once the details are worked out.

The five-year UK residency requirement for Commonwealth recruits was first waived in 1998, before being reintroduced in 2013.

On Monday, a BBC report stated that the UK government was expected to announce the move yesterday. The report also stated that currently, only 200 Commonwealth citizens per year can apply without having lived in the UK for five years but in a bid to recruit more servicemen and women to the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, the UK’s Ministry of Defence is lifting this cap.

“The armed forces are short of 8,200 soldiers, sailors and air personnel, a report found earlier this year. It is the worst shortage since 2010, said the independent government watchdog, the National Audit Office,” said the BBC report.

The report came on Monday morning, in the midst of this country’s opening ceremony of the biennial consultation for heads of missions and consulates at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs conference room.

Coincidentally, the issue of recruitment was being discussed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sir Louis Straker who told a gathering that he had sought the assistance of SVG’s High Commissioner to the UK Cenio E. Lewis to get more Vincentians recruited.

When told about the BBC report, Sir Louis said that it was good news once the report is true.

High Commissioner Lewis also welcomed the news but noted that he will have to look into the claim to make sure it is factual before commenting fully.

He however commented, “It is positive, and I am sure that our young people who are looking forward to serving in the British armed forces will welcome the opportunity to do so.

“I will be asking my senior officers in the mission to look at it and see what is going on…before I can comment I need to read the document for the details.”

He noted that since the recruitment process started in 2002, over 500 Vincentians have entered the Royal Navy and about the same number has joined the army.

The High Commissioner however noted that if locals are once again being allowed to join, it is not automatic that the recruitment process will take place locally. He said that this is something that will have to be negotiated so that persons who cannot afford to travel to the UK will be able to benefit.

The Royal Navy last recruited locally in 2016 and out of that process, about 125 Vincentians enrolled.

Sir Louis commented on Monday that back then, he had asked Lewis to get the UK’s navy and army to do recruiting here and his persistence led them to say yes but with the assurance that this country would pay for the recruitment officers to come to SVG.

“…and they came in 2016…and they said 90 per cent of the new recruits from that time come from St Vincent and the Grenadines and he (Lewis) is working harder to see what more can be done and he is trying to see if nurses can be recruited also,” said Sir Louis.

A rule introduced in 2016 allows only 200 Commonwealth citizens who have not met the requirement of living in the UK for five years to apply for a limited number of jobs every year.

According to another UK publication, the Daily Telegraph, which first published details of the plan in Monday’s paper, the air force and navy will begin recruiting immediately and the Army will