Foreign nationals may need a biometric residence permit as proof of their UK immigration status.
What are biometrics?
Biometrics refer to information about the external physical characteristics of a visa-holder, including a digital facial photograph and a scan of their fingerprints.
What is a biometric residence permit?
An individual must usually enrol their biometrics when applying for a visa of more than 6 months, which are then used in a biometric residence permit (BRP).
A BRP is a physical polycarbonate card issued by the Home Office containing both this biometric information and immigration status in a tamperproof embedded chip. The permit has a unique document number.
The BRP is designed to provide a secure and easily-verified proof of identity and a person’s permission to be in the UK.
It is an easy way of reliably identifying a foreign national, and is designed to help combat illegal working and reduce illegal immigration to the UK.
It shows your biographic details, ie; your name, date and place of birth, as well as your biometric information, ie; fingerprints and facial image. The BRP also includes their conditions of leave, such as if someone has the right to work or access public funds.
As the holder of a BRP, this will allow you to prove your identity safely and quickly, when required, and provide official proof of your lawful status in the UK. This can also be used to access the Home Office online service to prove your right to work to potential employers and your right to rent private rented accommodation in England to potential landlords.
You are not required to carry your BRP at all times, but you must show this with your passport at the UK border, if required, when travelling in and out of the UK.
Who needs a BRP?
You will be issued with a BRP if you:
- Apply to come to the UK for longer than 6 months
- Extend your visa to longer than 6 months
- Apply to settle in the UK
- Transfer your visa to a new passport
- Apply for certain Home Office travel documents
You will not be able to get a BRP if you used the UK Immigration: ID Check app when applying to remain in the UK. In these circumstances, you can only prove your immigration status online.
Why do I need a biometric residence permit?
The biometric residence permit can be used to confirm your right to stay, study or work in the UK, as well as your right to any public services or benefits you may be entitled to. It can also be used as a form of identification, for example, if you wish to open a UK bank account.
Your biometric residence permit will be checked by prospective employers, and for some immigration categories, it may have a National Insurance number (NINo) printed on the reverse. If so, there is then no need for you or your employer to make a separate application to the DWP to obtain a NINo.
During the application process for a visa, the Department of Work & Pensions DWP may have issued a National Insurance Number, if so this will be printed on the back of the BRP. If it isn’t, you can call the National Insurance number application line to ask for an application form which must be completed and returned along with proof of identity and right to work in the UK.
You are not required to carry your biometric residence permit at all times, but you must show it at the UK border, together with your passport, when travelling outside of, and when returning to, the UK. The card will confirm the date when your leave expires, and any other restrictions placed on your right to stay. As such, your permit will be valid for the duration of your leave.
How do I apply for a biometric residence permit?
You do not have to apply separately for a biometric residence permit, rather you will get one automatically if your visa or immigration application is approved, or you are replacing an older document.
That said, as part of your visa or immigration application you will need to enrol your biometric information, namely, a scan of your fingerprints and a digital photograph of your face. You will also need to provide your signature.
The process is quick, taking between 5-10 minutes and does not involve any ink or mess. You will also not need to take off your head covering if you wear one for either religious or medical reasons.
Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, although a child under the age of 5 does not need to give their fingerprints when they apply.
You do not have to apply separately for a BRP, where registering your biometric information forms part of the application process for a visa of more than 6 months. You will be told by the Home Office when you apply whether you will be required to enrol your biometrics and where this should be done – either a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point or a Service and Support Centre (SSC).
Applying for a BRP from within the UK
If you’re applying from within the UK, you’ll go to either a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point, a service and support centre or a post office branch. There will be a fee of £19.20.
If you are making a visa application from inside the UK, your BRP will be sent to the postal address you gave in your application form, where you will not be required to collect it. Your BRP should arrive within 10 working days of getting your Home Office decision letter saying that you can stay in the UK. However, it may take longer for your BRP to arrive if this is being delivered to either the Isle of Man, Isles of Scilly or the Scottish Highlands or islands. You will get a text and/or email from the delivery company (TNT) notifying you when your BRP is due to arrive and how to change the delivery date/time.
Someone aged 18 or over must be present at the delivery address to receive your BRP, where they will need proof of their identity, such as a driving licence or passport.
Applying for a BRP from overseas (outside the UK)
If you are applying for a visa from outside the UK, where enrolling your biometric information again forms part of that application process, you will be asked to enrol your biometrics at an overseas VIsa Application Centre (VAC).
Having provided your biometrics at a VAC, you will be required to collect your BRP once your are in the UK. You must usually do this before expiry of the vignette sticker in your travel document or within 10 days of arriving the UK, whichever is later.
You should check your decision letter, where this will tell you to collect your BRP from a named Post Office branch or your sponsor, if you chose this option. When collecting your BRP, you will need to bring in your passport with your vignette sticker. You will get your sticker when your visa application is approved. You can opt to pick up your BRP from a different branch, but you will need to arrange this at the Post Office branch you want to use and pay a fee, provided the branch you want to use offers a BRP collection service.
You can nominate somebody else to collect your BRP, but only if you have a serious illness or disability preventing you from collecting it in person, where the Home Office may email you for evidence of this, such as a doctor’s letter. Your nominated person will not be allowed to collect your BRP if you cannot show proof if asked. The nominated person collecting your BRP must also provide your passport to show that you have entered the UK. Having nominated a person using the online link at GOV.UK, you will be notified within 5 working days if that person has been approved to collect your BRP.
You must be nominated to collect a child’s BRP, even if you are the child’s parent or legal guardian, unless you are named on their vignette sticker and also collecting your own BRP at the same time. Having made an online request to collect their BRP, where needed, the Home Office will tell you within 5 working days if you have been approved to do this.
How much does a BRP cost?
In addition to your visa application fee, it costs £19.20 to give your biometrics or to re-use this information if you have provided it before. You will be told if you need to pay this fee when you apply to extend your stay or to switch to a different visa from within the UK.
If you apply for a visa from outside the UK, the cost of enrolling your biometrics at a VAC appointment will be included in your visa application fee.
How long are BRPs valid for?
BRPs were previously valid for the duration of a person’s limited leave, or for up to a maximum of 10 years, or 5 years if under 16. However, BRPs are being incrementally replaced, where the Home Office aims to phase out physical documents before the end of 2024. For this reason, all newly issued BRPs expire no later than 31 December 2024.
After this date, instead of a visa applicant being given a physical BRP, a vignette containing a facial image will be issued in the form of an eVisa.
Why does my card say December 2024 expiry for my BRP?
BRPs have been endorsed with an expiry date of 31 December 2024 for some time now, even where the individual’s permission to enter or remain in the UK has been granted beyond this date. This is because you will not need a BRP from 1 January 2025, where you will be able to prove your UK immigration status online, without needing a BRP.
If you have a BRP with an expiry date of 31 December 2024, your rights and entitlements are unaffected if you have permission to stay in the UK that ends after that date, and you do not need to tell the Home Office if your BRP expires on that date.
Do children need to provide biometric information?
Applicants under the age of 18 are still required to provide biometric information, although the nature of this information will depend on their age bracket. Further, any child under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or someone aged 18 or over who has legal responsibility for them.
Under 16’s will be required to provide a scan of their fingerprints and a photograph of their face, but they will not need to give a signature. If the child is under the age of 6 they will not need to give their fingerprints either.
For those aged 16 and over, they will need to provide the same biometric information as an adult, namely a scan of their fingerprints, a digital photograph of their face and a signature.
How long does it take to process a biometric residence permit?
How you get your biometric residence permit will depend on where you made your visa or immigration application. If you applied from inside the UK, your permit will be sent to you by courier, to the address you gave in your application, within 7 to 10 days of getting your decision letter from the Home Office saying that you can remain in the UK.
If you applied from outside the UK, you will need to collect your biometric residence permit once you are in the UK. You must do this before the vignette sticker in your travel document expires, or within 10 days of arriving in the UK, whichever is later.
You will be told in your decision letter where to collect the permit from, either a named post office branch, or your sponsor, if you chose this option when you applied. You may be liable to a fine if you fail to collect your permit within the permitted timeframe.
You must be aged 18 or over to collect a biometric residence permit. You must also be nominated to collect a child’s permit, even if you’re the child’s parent.
What happens if my BRP card has not arrived?
You should contact TNT, the delivery company, if your BRP has not arrived within 10 working days of receiving your Home Office decision letter. You will need the postcode of the address you gave in your visa application and the 9-number consignment number that can be found in emails from TNT and the Home Office BRP courier team.
If you missed the BRP delivery, you should contact TNT to arrange re-delivery within 30 days or it will be returned to the Home Office. However, if you have not got a consignment number, TNT is unable to help with your query or it has been more than 30 days since missing the delivery, you will need to tell the Home Office that your BRP has not arrived. If your BRP is being delivered to the Isle of Man, Isles of Scilly, or the Scottish Highlands or islands, your delivery will be arranged by TNT but carried out by Royal Mail. To track your BRP delivery, contact TNT to get the Royal Mail tracking number.
You can contact the Home Office about your BRP if your decision letter saying that you can remain in the UK arrived more than 10 working days ago. However, you should only contact the Home Office if any of the following apply:
- you have not got a consignment number to track your delivery with the delivery company
- you have already contacted the delivery company and they were not able to help you
- you missed the delivery of your BRP more than 30 days ago.
You can contact the Home Office using its online form. You will need to provide your full name, date of birth and nationality, together with an email or postal address. You will also need your decision letter. The Home Office will email you to advise you on what to do next, where you will usually get a response within 5 working days, although this will take longer if you do not give an email address. You must not use this service if delivery has been attempted and you were left a card, or sent a text message or email. In these circumstances, you should contact the delivery company to rearrange delivery.
What do you need to do if your BRP is expiring?
The way in which you replace an expired BRP will depend on whether you are in the UK and what type of leave you have. If you have indefinite leave to be in the UK, you can use the BRP replacement service from within the UK, where you will usually get a decision on your application and sent a replacement BRP within 6 months of applying online.
If your visa is about to expire, you cannot use the BRP replacement service. You will need to apply to extend your visa or apply for a new visa instead. If approved, you will automatically get a new BRP. If you are applying to extend your stay or switch to another visa route, you must be in the UK to re-enrol your biometric information, although you may be told that your previously enrolled biometrics can be re-used.
If you are outside the UK, you cannot apply for a replacement BRP if it expires overseas. Instead, you will need to apply for a replacement BRP visa which will let you re-enter the UK only once. You will need to prove your identity at a VAC to complete your application, where you will usually get a decision on your application within 3 weeks. If your application is approved, your BRP will be sent to you with your decision letter. You can apply for a replacement BRP within 3 months of its expiry on your return, unless you have a good reason, for example, you were unable to return to the UK within that timeframe.
How do I renew or replace a biometric residence permit?
Once you receive your biometric residence permit, if there is a mistake in the length or conditions of your visa and you made your application from within the UK you can ask for an administrative review.
You can also report other problems online, for example, if your permit was damaged when it arrived or your name contains a spelling mistake. You will need to report any problems within 10 days, otherwise you may have to pay for a replacement. You must also report changes to any personal details.
If your biometric residence permit is lost or stolen, and it was valid for 3 or more months, you are again legally obligated to report this and to apply for a replacement from within the UK. You can face a financial penalty and be made to leave the UK if you do not apply for a replacement within a period of 3 months.
If your permit was valid for 3 months or less, you must still report it as lost or stolen, even if you do not intend to remain in the UK after its expiry date. Alternatively, if you plan to leave and re-enter the UK within 3 months of its expiry date you can apply for a replacement, or apply to extend your visa if you want to stay in the UK after its expiry date. If granted, you will automatically be provided with a new permit.
If your biometric residence permit is lost while you are outside the UK, you must still report this, but you will need to apply for a “replacement BRP visa”, which lets you re-enter the UK once only at a cost of £154. You can then apply for a replacement permit when you return to the UK.
How do you change address on your BRP?
If you have applied for a visa from inside the UK and want your BRP to be sent to a different postal address than the one you gave in your application, you will need to update your address details. If you do not have your decision letter yet, you will need to let the Home Office know that your address has changed. If your decision letter has already arrived, you will additionally need to tell the delivery company (TNT) that your address has changed, where you will get an email or text from TNT explaining how to do this.
As a BRP may take longer to arrive following a change of address, you must tell the Home Office and TNT as soon as your address changes. If your BRP is delivered to the wrong address because you did not update it, you will need to report a problem with your BRP.
Can you use your BRP to prove your right to work?
To prove your right to work, you will need to use the Home Office online service rather than showing your physical document. However, you will still need to collect your BRP before starting work in order to use the information to generate a right to work share code.
BRPs have been removed from the list of acceptable documents used by employers to conduct a manual right to work check, although a retrospective check will not be required if you used a physical document to demonstrate your right to work before 6 April 2022.
Biometric residence permit FAQs
What is a biometric residence permit?
The biometric residence permit is a card issued to foreign nationals in the UK as proof of their identity, immigration status and any rights to work, study or access public funds while in the UK. It is a physical card, similar in size to a standard credit card,
How long is a biometric residence permit valid for?
A BRP is valid for the duration of the individual's leave to remain in the UK, or for a maximum of 10 years.
How much does it cost to replace a biometric card?
A replacement BRP card should be ordered on the .gov website and costs £56, plus £19.20 to re-enrol the biometric information, if required.
Last updated: 2 February 2023