In 2004, the right to settle in the United Kingdom was given to Gurkhas who had been discharged from the British Army on or after 1 July 1997. This was the date of the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China and the point at which the Brigade of Gurkhas moved their headquarters from Hong Kong to the United Kingdom.
Guidance was issued to immigration case workers on how to consider applications from Gurkhas who had been discharged before 1 July 1997.
In September 2008 the High Court ruled that the policy of using 1 July 1997 as a cut-off date was fair but also found that the guidance used by case workers when making decisions on those discharged before 1997 needed to be much clearer in setting out the factors which were to be given weight in assessing which individuals should be offered settlement in the UK.
The Government fully accepted this judgment. The guidance has now been revised and is available on the UK Border Agency website. In considering changes to the guidance, we have taken on board not only the letter of what the judge said in this case but also the spirit of his judgment. The new guidance will ensure that those who have given outstanding service will be entitled to settle in the UK. In summary, under the terms of the guidance, Gurkhas and their families will be able to come to the UK to settle where they meet one of the following criteria:
Three-years’ continuous lawful residence in the UK during or after service;
Close family settled in the UK with whom they enjoy family life within the meaning of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR);
A Level 1-3 Award for gallantry, leadership or bravery for service in the Brigade;
Twenty or more years service in the Brigade;
A chronic-long term medical condition which is attributable to, or was aggravated by, service in the Brigade.
Additionally, discretion will normally be exercised and settlement in the UK granted if two or more of the following criteria are met:
Claimants were previously awarded a UK Ministry of Defence disability pension but no longer have a chronic-long term medical condition attributable to, or aggravated by, service in the Brigade;
Claimants received a Mention in Dispatches (Level 4 Award) for service in the Brigade;
Claimants completed 10 years service in the Brigade or served less than 10 years but received a campaign medal for active service in the Brigade.
We estimate that this guidance will mean that over 4,000 ex-Gurkhas and around 6,000 spouses and children will qualify for settlement rights in the UK. We will be proud to welcome those individuals to the UK in recognition of the outstanding service that they gave. We will work with the Ministry of Defence to ensure that those who might be eligible in Nepal are fully aware of these changes and of the opportunity for settlement.
The Government both recognise and honour the huge contribution that the Brigade of Gurkhas has made, and continues to make, to the Armed Forces. This contribution is chiefly recognised through the arrangements made to support Gurkhas following their discharge. Prior to 2007 the Gurkhas completed their service at the age of 33 and from that time and the rest of their lives they received a pension which allows for a very good standard of living in Nepal. The pension is generous and has been significantly increased over the last decade.
I hope that former Gurkhas and their supporters will work with us to raise awareness of the new guidance and ensure that those eligible to settle in the UK under its terms are aware of that choice.
In line with our commitment to the High Court, we will now reconsider all outstanding appeals by 11 June 2009.
I intend to initiate a review of the impact of the guidance in 12 months’ time.