After the first few months you are 'locked in' to the army for at least four years and sometimes longer, so make sure you know the rules before you sign up.

Joining aged under 18

  • You can leave in the first SIX months but NOT in the first six weeks.
  • After the first six months, you can still leave if you apply in writing before you turn 18, but you might have to wait three months before they let you out.
  • If you have turned 18 and you've been in the army for more than six months, you have no right to leave until your 22nd birthday.

If you apply to leave the army before you're 18 then it's called Discharge as of Right (DAOR) and the army can't call you up again.

But as soon as you turn 18 you lose your right to leave and you will have to stay in the army for the next four years. And after that the army can still call you up to train or fight at any time for the next six years. Some veterans who had left the army were called up to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan - so it does happen.

Joining aged 18 or over

If you are 18 or over and join the army for the FIRST time, then:

  • You can leave in the first THREE months (but NOT in the first six weeks).
  • After the first three months you have no right to leave until you have served for four years.

If you leave in the first three months it's called Discharge as of Right (DAOR) and the army can't call you up again afterwards. But as soon as the first three months are up you'll have to stay in the army until you've been in for four years. And after that the army can still call you up to train or fight at any time for the next six years.

Important: If you join aged over 18 and it's not your first time in the army then you have no right to DAOR and so no right to leave at all for four years from the day you sign up.

'Buying out'

You used to be able to pay to get out of the army (called 'buying out') but not any more.

In the army already?

If you're already in the army and want to leave, go to 'Leaving the army' to work through your options.

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