11 May 2009
Government makes UK visa promise to Gurkhas
After intense lobbying, the British Government has made a promise to change the UK visa rules so that the Gurkhas that fought for Britain could secure a permanent UK visa.
The new criteria for the UK visa programme means that another 10,000 soldiers from the Brigade of the Gurkhas may be eligible to settle in the UK. The Brigade of the Gurkhas is a unit of the British Army comprising Nepalese soldiers, and is renowned for its gallantry and particularly its use of a unique weapon known as the kukris, a heavy knife with a curved blade.
Joanna Lumley, the famous British actress from the comedy TV series Absolutely Fabulous, has spearheaded the campaign to secure UK visa rights for the Gurkha veterans, and has been on a rollercoaster campaign lobbying to PM Gordon Brown and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas.
After Ms Lumley praised the PM's decision to amend legislation so that Gurkhas would get permanent UK visa rights, a press conference was called after five Gurkha veterans had their UK visa application rejected by the government.
Mr Woolas defended the letters, saying that they were a matter of bureaucratic obligations because the new legislation had not yet been implemented, and those five UK visa applications would be reassessed in due course so that their permanent residency would be granted.
"I want to be really clear about the letters which have been sent out today to these five individuals. We gave a commitment to the Court that we would notify these five individuals by 7 May whether they could be granted settlement based on the new guidelines published on 24 April," he said in a statement.
"In that letter, however, we have made it absolutely clear that we have made a commitment to publish the next stage of our reform of the rules before the parliamentary recess and that we will reconsider their cases as soon as the new rules have been published. The notification that they have not been granted settlement at this time is therefore very much an interim one."
Mr Woolas also confirmed that the 1500 UK visa applications waiting for approval for Gurkha veterans would be processed by the end of May, and so far over 100 ex-Gurkhas have received their notification that their UK visa application for the right to live in Britain has been approved.
The next stage of UK visa reformation in terms of Gurkha settlement in the UK will be published before the Summer Recess.
The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK visa and immigration services.