Foreign nationals making certain applications to the Home Office have to apply for a biometric residence permit as proof of their UK immigration status.
What is a biometric residence permit?
A biometric residence permit (BRP) is a physical card, similar size to a standard credit card, which is used as the holder’s proof of identity, proof of right to study or work in the UK and proof of their entitlement to any public services or benefits.
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. The permit has a unique document number, and is made from polycarbonate and contains a biometric chip to make it more secure against forgery and abuse.
It shows your biographic details, ie; your name, date and place of birth, as well as your biometric information, ie; fingerprints and facial image.
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
Why do I need a biometric residence permit?
You will need a biometric residence permit 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 and clean, 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.
The location at which you will need to attend to give your biometric information will depend on how you are making your visa or immigration application. You will be told where to go after you have applied. 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 nominal fee of just £19.20.
If you are outside the UK, you will be asked to go to a visa application centre. The cost will already be included in your application fee.
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.
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.
Biometric residence permit FAQs
What is a biometric residence permit?
The biometric residence permit is a card issued to migrants in the UK as proof of their identity, immigration status and any rights to work, study or access public funds while in the UK.
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 2021