eVisas are being brought in as proof of an individual’s immigration status in the UK.
The UK’s immigration system is undergoing a process of digitisation, whereby the way in which visas are issued and the way you prove your status in the UK are changing.
The following guide to the new UK eVisa system looks at the practicalities for eVisa-holders, including how to apply for an eVisa and how to prove your rights, to how long this type of visa is valid.
What is an eVisa UK?
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) — the department of the UK’s Home Office responsible for issuing visas — is developing a digital immigration system. This means that physical documents, such as passport endorsements or biometric residence permits, are being replaced with an online record of your immigration status. This is known as an eVisa.
The eVisa UK is digital evidence proving your immigration status and the conditions of your stay in the UK. This online record can currently be used to share relevant information, such as your right to work or right to rent. You will also soon be able to use an eVisa to travel in and out of the UK, where you will not need to carry a physical document, except for your current passport, although your passport must be registered to your UKVI account so that border officials can check your immigration status.
Who needs an eVisa for the UK?
Millions of foreign nationals have already received an eVisa, for example, those who applied through the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) after the UK left the European Union. However, as a digital by default system is now being rolled out by UKVI across most visa categories, soon almost all visa applicants will have an eVisa.
The documents being replaced in the UK by eVisas are:
- biometric residence permits (BRPs)
- biometric residence cards (BRCs)
- passport endorsements, such as indefinite leave to enter wet ink stamps
- vignette stickers contained in passports, such as entry clearance or visa vignettes.
Updating any existing physical document to an eVisa will not affect your immigration status or the conditions of your permission to enter or stay in the UK. There are also various benefits to obtaining an eVisa, including the fact that a digital visa is secure and cannot be lost, stolen or tampered with, unlike a physical document. You will not need to wait for, or collect, a physical document after your visa application is decided, although you might still need to provide biometric information in person, where UKVI will tell you if you need to do this when you apply. It will also be quicker and easier to prove your status at the UK border.
Is the UK eVisa the same as an ETA?
The UK eVisa is not the same as an electronic travel authorisation (ETA). An ETA is a new online security system being introduced by the UK government to electronically screen non-visa nationals who are currently entitled to travel to the UK visa-free for up to 6 months. This could be for the purposes of tourism, transit, business or short-term study.
If you are a national of Qatar, you are already required to obtain an ETA, while nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will need an ETA if they are travelling to the UK on or after 22 February 2024. For nationals of other countries, an ETA is not yet needed, but more nationalities will soon be added to the scheme.
The ETA is commonly being described in unofficial online sources as the UK’s new Tourist eVisa, as the ETA will be digitally linked to your passport. Strictly speaking, however, this is not an eVisa, but rather authorisation to travel to the UK having been approved in advance following online pre-screening. As such, this does not guarantee entry to the UK where, on your arrival at a port of entry, you may still need to satisfy immigration officials of the purpose of your stay and that you are a genuine visitor to the UK.
A distinction should also be drawn between eVisas and electronic visa waivers (EVWs). An EVW is a visa waiver for nationals of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where this will allow applicants to visit the UK for up to 6 months. However, by the end of 2024, nationals from these countries, plus all non-visa nationals, will be required to obtain an ETA to visit the UK. Once fully in force, it will cost £10 to apply for an ETA and you will usually get a decision within 3 working days, although you may get a quicker decision.
It is also worth noting that for anyone wanting to visit the UK for a purpose not permissible under the UK’s visitor rules, or for nationals who are currently required to obtain a visa even to visit the UK, they will need to apply in advance of travel for a suitable visa-type. Soon, many of these visas will not be issued as physical documents, but rather as eVisas.
What is the difference between a visa and eVisa?
A visa is the permission needed from UKVI to enter or stay in the UK, often in the form of a passport endorsement or physical document, while an eVisa is an online record of this permission.
What are eVisas used for?
An eVisa can soon be used for travel purposes. It can also be used to prove your immigration status and rights in the UK, including your right to work or right to rent.
Right to work checks
In the context of employment, all UK employers must conduct prescribed right to work checks on each new employee, regardless of their nationality. This is to ensure that every individual that they hire has the legal entitlement to work in the UK and to do the work on offer. If an employer fails to carry out a right to work check, and to do so in the correct manner, they will be unable to establish a statutory excuse against civil liability if they are found to be employing someone illegally by reason of that person’s immigration status.
As an overseas national subject to immigration control, you may be able to prove your right to work with either your physical immigration documents or an online share code. However, for those of you whose immigration status is held online, as an eVisa, obtaining a share code will usually be the only way to prove your right to work. To obtain a share code, you will need to visit the ‘Prove your right to work to an employer’ webpage at GOV.UK, where you will need your biometric residence permit number, your biometric residence card number, or your passport or national identity card, to be able to generate a code.
Your employer can use the share code to check the types of job that you are allowed to do and the length of time that you can work in the UK. If your right to work in the UK is time-limited, your employer will need to conduct a follow-up check when this is due to expire. This is to ensure that you have successfully applied for an extension of stay to be in the UK.
Right to rent checks
In the context of renting property, all landlords looking to rent residential property located in England must first check that any new tenant over the age of 18 has the right to rent before entering into a tenancy agreement with them. As with right to work checks, this is to ensure that any tenants are lawfully allowed to live in the UK and that those without lawful immigration status are prevented from accessing the private-rented sector.
A right to rent check is again a prescribed form of online or manual check to be conducted by landlords, or letting agents, when letting privately-rented accommodation.
If you are an eVisa-holder, you will need to generate an online share code to prove your right to rent. To obtain a share code, you will need to visit the ‘Prove your right to rent in England’ webpage at GOV.UK using either your biometric residence permit or card number, or your passport or national identity card. If your right to live in the UK is time-limited, your landlord will also need to conduct a follow-up right to rent check when this is due to expire to ensure that you have been approved for an extension of stay to be in the UK.
How do you apply for a UK eVisa?
If you are applying for an eVisa from overseas, you should follow the normal online application process for your category of visa. As part of your application, you will need to prove your identity, although how you do this will depend on where you are from and the type of passport that you have. You will be told what you need to do when you apply.
In some cases, you may be able to use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document. You will also be asked to create or sign in to your UKVI account. In other cases, you may need to provide your fingerprints and a facial photograph, known as your biometric information, at an overseas visa application centre (VAC).
Having submitted your application, you will receive written notification of your immigration status, normally via email, if your application is successful. The written notification cannot be used as evidence of your right to work or rent in the UK, but you should still retain it as confirmation for your own records, or for use when contacting UKVI. This written notification will also tell you if you can use the ‘View and Prove’ services.
If you currently have permission to stay in the UK and have either a biometric residence permit or card, or another type of physical document, to prove your immigration status, you do not have to take any action now. Throughout 2024, UKVI will provide updates on when you need to register for an UKVI account and what you need to do.
If you need to make a new application for permission to stay in the UK, you should follow the usual application process, where there will be information and guidance provided during your application process if you need to create an UKVI account. Again, you will need to prove your identity as part of a renewal application, either by using the ID check app or by attending a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point.
There will be updates in due course to the ‘Online immigration status (eVisa) – GOV.UK’ webpage setting out available support if you need help to register for an account. If you have permission to stay in the UK, once you have completed your UKVI account registration you should then be able to see your eVisa in the view and prove online services.
How much does a UK eVisa cost?
The cost to apply for an eVisa will depend on the category of visa sought. For example, the standard fee for a Skilled Worker visa ranges from £719 to £1,500, while an application for settled or pre-settled status under the EUSS is free of charge.
How long does a UK eVisa take?
The length of time it takes for UKVI to process an eVisa application will typically depend on whether you are applying from inside or outside the UK. For eVisa applications made outside the UK, the processing time is usually up to 3 weeks, while applications from inside the UK can take up to 8 weeks. However, you may be able to pay for a faster decision.
Once you have been approved for an eVisa, from either inside or outside the UK, this will remain valid for the period of your grant of leave to enter or stay in the UK.
How do you access your UK Evisa?
As an eVisa is an online record of your immigration status, together with the conditions of your permission to enter or stay in the UK, you will need to register for an UKVI account to view and share relevant information about your status securely with third parties, such as employers or landlords. You may have already created an UKVI account when you first applied for your eVisa. You will also have created an account if you applied for a visa using the ID Check app, or applied to the EUSS, otherwise you can register for an UKVI account.
You can update personal details through your UKVI account, such as your contact or current passport details. Importantly, you must keep your passport details up-to-date in this account, and tell UKVI about any relevant changes, so that your immigration status can be easily identified at the UK border so as to minimise the possibility of delays.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. For advice on your UK immigration options, or any aspect of a Home Office application, contact us.
eVisa UK FAQ’s
What is a UK E-visa?
An eVisa is an online record of your immigration status and the conditions of your permission to enter or stay in the UK, where you can view and share relevant information about your status with employers and landlords.
How much does an E-visa cost UK?
The cost to apply for an eVisa depends on the category of visa. For example, the standard fee for a Skilled Worker visa ranges from £719 to £1,500, while an application under the EU Settlement Scheme is free of charge.
Can I apply for eVisa online?
Most applications for eVisas are made online. You may also be eligible to use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check' app to complete the identity verification stage of your application, rather than attending an in-person appointment.
Last updated: 27 November 2023