The Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) is a document given to non-UK nationals and their dependents that is usually applied for as part of a UK visa or immigration application. It can be used as a form of identification and is proof of the holder’s right to stay, work or study in the UK.
As a foreign national in the UK, the BRP will provide you with both a reliable form of identification and evidence of your immigration status. The BRP also confirms your right to claim for any public services or benefits that you may be eligible for.
The BRP is a small card, similar to a UK drivers’ licence, that holds your biographic details, including your name, gender, nationality, date and place of birth. It will also include a scan of your fingerprints, a digital image of your face and a digital copy of your signature.
The card will also detail your UK immigration status, stating the date when your leave expires, as well as any other restrictions placed on your leave to remain in the UK.
Who needs a BRP?
Foreign nationals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland will require a BRP in the following circumstances:
- When you apply to come to the UK for longer than 6 months
- When you extend your visa to longer than 6 months
- When you apply to settle in the UK
- When you transfer your visa to a new passport
- When you apply for certain Home Office travel documents.
Where you are required to have a BRP, this will be stated on your visa or immigration application form. In circumstances where a BRP is not required, you will instead receive a vignette inside your passport.
Do children need a BRP?
Applicants under the age of 16 are still required to enrol their biometric information.
Under 16’s, must give a scan of their fingerprints and a photograph of their face, but they will not need to provide a signature. For children age under the age of 6, they will only need to provide a photograph.
Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or someone aged 18 or over who has legal responsibility for them.
What information will the card show?
When a document is referred to as biometric it means it has embedded information in it that can be used to authenticate the identity of the holder.
You will need to give some biometric information to be included in your BRP. You will be asked to provide a digital facial image and your fingerprints. The process is a quick digital process (no mess or ink) and you will not be required to take off a head-covering if you wear one for medical or religious reasons.
Your biometric information will be stored on a UK government database and managed in accordance with strict UK data protection laws.
Your card will contain personal information including your name, date and place of birth, fingerprints and photo, information regarding your visa and conditions of stay, confirmation of your access to public services and – depending on when it was issued – your national insurance number.
There are also a number of security features in the card. Made from polycarbonate material and containing an electronic chip to make it more secure against forgery, the BRP is designed to combat illegal working and reduce illegal immigration. The International Civil Aviation Organisation ‘chip inside’ symbol, found on the front of the permit above your image, a two-colour Ultraviolet design, and a unique permit number.
If a person is physically unable to provide biometric information – for example, if they have a disability or have no fingers or hands – this will be recorded on the database.
If you refuse to give biometric information, your immigration application will be rejected and it could lead to your deportation from the UK.
How do you apply for a BRP?
When submitting your visa or immigration application, you will not be required to make a separate application for a BRP. If your application is approved, you will automatically receive a BRP, assuming you have enrolled your biometric information.
You will be told where to enrol your information after you have applied. The location to attend will depend on whether you are making your application from within or outside the UK.
In the event that you are making an in-county application, you will either go to a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point, a service and support centre or a post office branch. There will be a nominal fee of just £19.20.
If, on the other hand, you are applying from outside the UK, you will be asked to go to a visa application centre and the cost will already be included in your application fee.
How long is BRP processing?
How you receive your BRP will depend on whether you are making your application from within or outside the UK.
In the event that you applied from within the UK, your permit will be delivered to your home address, or the address provided in your visa or immigration application, by courier within 7 to 10 days of receiving your Home Office decision letter. If your BRP has not arrived by ten days after the decision letter, you will need to report it as missing to the Home Office.
If, on the other hand, you applied from outside the UK, you will be required to collect your BRP once you have arrived in the UK. You will be told in your decision letter where to collect the permit. This could be from a named post office branch, or from your UK sponsor if you selected this option when you submitted your application.
You must collect the BRP before the expiry date in your travel document or within ten days of reaching the UK, whichever is later. Failure to collect your BRP, or to collect within the specified timeframe, could result in a fine of up to £1,000.
How much is a BRP?
If you are providing your biometric information in the UK there is a set fee of £19.20, if you are applying from outside the cost will be included in your application fee.
How long does the biometric residence card last?
Your BRP will not only contain biometric and biographical information, it will also hold information relating to your immigration status, including the date when your leave to remain in the UK expires and any specific restrictions on your right to stay.
Your permit will be valid for the duration of your leave. Although you are not required to carry your BRP at all times, you must present it with your passport at the UK border if you are leaving or re-entering the UK. As such, you must ensure that your BRP remains valid.
In the event that you have been granted limited leave to enter or remain in the UK and wish to extend your stay, you will need to make a further application to the Home Office before your leave expires.
What if there is an error on my biometric residence card?
When you receive your BRP, it is entirely possible that it may contain an error. This could simply be a misspelling or it could be a mistake as to the length or conditions of your leave.
In the event that you made an in-country application, and you identify an error as to the length or conditions of your leave, you can seek what’s known as an administrative review.
Other more straightforward problems, such as a spelling mistake or even physical damage to your BRP, can be reported online. However, you will need to report any problems within 10 days of receipt of your BRP, or you may have to pay for a replacement card.
Replacing a lost or stolen BRP
If your biometric residence permit is lost or stolen, you must report this to the Home Office and apply for a replacement. In the event that you do not seek a replacement within a period of three months, you risk being fined up to £1000 and could be made to leave the UK.
If your BRP is lost outside the UK, you must again report this, but you will need to apply for a replacement BRP visa. Although this will let you re-enter the UK, you will need to apply for a full replacement permit on your return. This costs £154 and will allow you to re-enter the UK.
If your BRP has expired and you have indefinite leave to remain, you can apply for a replacement online from within the UK. If your visa is also due to expire at the same time you must apply for the visa extension first and if successful you will automatically receive a BRP replacement.
I have ILR, do I need a BRP?
There are many reasons why ILR holders opt to apply for the BRP. The permit allows for easier travel into the country as proof of indefinite status; it offers a recognisable documentary evidence of right to work in the UK and to access public benefits; and it is a more secure document with enhanced counter-fraud features compared with passport vignettes.
If you have permission from the Home Office to settle in the UK, known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’ (ILR), you can apply to transfer your ILR to a BRP by making a No Time Limits (NTL) application where:
- You do not have documentary evidence of your ILR.
- You have lost your passport containing your ILR endorsement, or it has been stolen or expired.
- You have changed your identity.
To be eligible for the NTL application, you will need to show you have valid ILR, that this status has not been lost through absence and that you continue to be eligible for ILR.
There is no restriction on when you can or should make an NTL application, provided your ILR status is valid.
Applications for NTL must be made in the UK on the NTL application form and require a fee. The application form must be completed online, and you will need to have your biometrics taken (fingerprints and photo).
The application fee for an NTL application is £229. You’ll get a decision within 6 months of attending your UKVCAS appointment.
If you need to get a BRP sooner you can select a priority service but you will have to pay an extra £800. With the priority service, you will get a decision by the end of the day if you have an appointment on a weekday or 2 working days after a weekend appointment.
If you have temporary leave to remain in the UK you can apply online as well. The cost, in this case, is £161 and you will receive a decision within 8 weeks. You can pay for a priority service as well.
If you are a Commonwealth citizen but do not have access to the relevant documents that prove your right to remain in the UK you could get a BRP under the Windrush Scheme.
How legal advice can help
A solicitor specialising in immigration can help if you have queries about applying to settle in the UK under Indefinite Leave to Remain, or if you are making an application for a biometric residence permit to prove your status in the UK.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.