Kenyans will be able to apply for British Armed Forces roles after 5-year UK residency requirement is dropped

British Army Training in Kenya
British Army Training in Kenya

Kenyans and other Commonwealth nationals not living in the UK will be able to join the British Armed Forces, the UK government has announced.

Previously, only 200 Commonwealth citizens per year could apply without having lived in the UK for five years. But the Ministry of Defence has announced it is lifting this cap in a bid to recruit more servicemen and women to the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Earlier this year, a report found that the Armed Forces is short of 8,200 soldiers, sailors and air personnel, the worst shortage since 2010, and it is hoped the changes will recruit an extra 1,350 people every year.

This change means people from Commonwealth countries, including Kenya, will be considered for roles, even if they have never lived in Britain.

Minister for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster said: “As an outward-looking nation, Britain has always counted on the dedicated service of our friends from the Commonwealth to keep this country safe.

“From Australia to Jamaica, to Fiji and South Africa, Commonwealth recruits are already playing a key role in our Armed Forces.

“So we’re stepping up the numbers of recruits from the Commonwealth, knowing that they will bring key skills and dedicated service to our military.

“Their different perspectives will also help us to enhance our cultural understanding, giving us an operational advantage over our adversaries.”

Britain already employs 4,500 Commonwealth citizens in the Armed Forces, who serve in a wide variety of capacities.

The five-year residency requirement for Commonwealth recruits was first dropped in 1998 before being reintroduced 13 years later, but a rule introduced in 2016 already allows 200 Commonwealth citizens who have not met the requirement of living in the UK for five years to apply annually for a limited number of positions.

Of the 1,350 new annual recruits, the Army is expecting to hire about 1000 personnel, with the Navy and the RAF hoping to recruit roughly 300 and 50 respectively. While the Royal Navy and RAF will begin recruitment procedures immediately, British Army applications will open early next year.

As part of the phased approach, people who have previously applied for Army roles that were placed on hold due to the limited numbers that the Army could accept each year will be prioritised.

All roles and ranks will be open to Commonwealth citizens, from all Commonwealth countries who are aged 18 or over.

Applications from citizens of countries outside the Commonwealth will not be accepted, although citizens from Ireland and the Gurkhas from Nepal can already join because of special rules.

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