The British government will allow up to 1350 Commonwealth nationals such as citizens of India, Australia, Canada, Kenya Bangladesh to join its army, navy and air force.
According to a statement, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) laid out the details before the House of Commons, which involves a waiver of the current requirement of a minimum of five-year residency in the UK to apply to join the country’s Army, Navy or Air Force.
The move is intended to meet a shortage in the ranks of the UK armed forces. This would open up opportunities to interested people based in countries like Bangladesh, India, Australia, Canada and Kenya, according to the statement.
“We have now decided to remove the five-year UK residency criterion for Commonwealth citizens and increase recruitment to 1,350 across the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force (RAF),” reads the MoD statement.
“Applications will be accepted from all Commonwealth countries, although in order to mitigate the risks associated with unaccompanied minors traveling to the UK without the guarantee of a job, we will not be accepting applications from those under 18.”
Special rules already allow citizens of Ireland and Gurkhas from Nepal to join the British armed forces. The five-year UK residency requirement for Commonwealth recruits was first waived in 1998, before being reintroduced in 2013.
A limited waiver to the residency requirement was introduced in May 2016 to recruit up to 200 Commonwealth personnel per year to fill skilled shortage posts. This limited waiver has now been widened, with the RAF and Navy beginning recruitment of Commonwealth applicants right away and the Army to accept such applications from early 2019.
A National Audit Office (NAO) report had revealed in April this year that the UK’s armed forces are short of around 8,200 soldiers, sailors and air personnel. Among measures to meet this shortage, women are now allowed to apply for all roles in the British military for the first time in history.
Britain currently employs 4,500 Commonwealth citizens in the armed forces, with 3,940 in the Army, 480 in the Royal Navy and 80 serving in the RAF.