Those who have served for four years or more are eligible to apply to stay in the UK. However, they must still pay the visa application fees, which have risen from £1,051 in 2015 to £2,389. This means a service leaver and their partner with two children face paying nearly £10,000 to continue to live in the UK.
It affects about 500 personnel each year, the charity said.
Charles Byrne, RBL director general, said: “These Commonwealth veterans are facing a desperate situation.” Calling on the government to take action he said: “They have left their homeland and given years of loyal service to the United Kingdom. They should be able to continue living in the UK with their families, without incurring significant financial costs.”
One of the main reasons the former military personnel, many who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, cannot afford the visa fees is that while waiting for a decision on their settlement status, they are unable to seek employment, claim benefits or register with aGP.
Many have to rely on charities, such as the RBL, which has already assisted in 561 such cases, providing advice and support where immigration or visas have been a concern.
Hannah Swart, whose South African husband, Dewald, serves with the British army, said: “Having to pay these fees has made life very challenging for myself and my family.
“The government must urgently change its policy so others don’t have to go through the stress and uncertainty we’ve had to go through.” An anonymous benefactor has now stepped in to help the family.