If you have been granted a UK visa for a period of more than six months, you would usually be issued a vignette visa. The vignette is not the actual visa; it allows you to travel to and enter the country, after which you must collect your Biometric Residence Permit as proof of your leave to remain.
What is the vignette visa?
The visa vignette is a sticker that is added to your passport (or travel document) when your entry clearance application is approved.
It includes an image of your photographic identification and will state the type of visa you have been granted, as well as the visa validity issue date and end date.
The start date will usually be the date you provided on your visa application as your intended date of travel, although ‘special arrangements’ may apply for certain visa routes. For example:
- Skilled worker and Tier 5 temporary visa vignettes generally have a start date of 14 days before sponsored employment is due to commence, as stated on the Certificate of Sponsorship.
- Student visa vignettes typically start on the later date of either one month before the start of the course or 7 days before the stated intended travel date.
This visa vignette itself will ordinarily only be valid for 30 days from the date of issue. You must travel to the UK within this 30-day period. You cannot attempt entry to the UK on your visa before the validity date on the vignette.
Types of UK visa vignette
There are different types of UK visa vignette:
Uniform Format Visa
The Uniform Format Visa (UFV) is used by EU Member States for visa nationals coming to the UK as visitors or in transit, under Category A, B or C.
CAT C vignette
CAT C vignette ceased being used for most visa categories from June 2019. It is currently used in limited circumstances for visa nationals with permission to enter the UK is granted for 3 months (90 days) or less as a visitor or transitting. For example:
- Approved destination status (ADS) agreement visas (valid for 30 days for Chinese nationals)
- Visitor in transit (valid for a stay of up to 48 hours)
- Direct airside transit visas (DATV)
- Any visit visa where the caseworker decides, based on the specific circumstances of the application, to restrict the validity of the visa to 3 months or less All CAT C visas remain valid for travel to and/or through the UK until they expire.
CAT D vignettes
Since June 2019 the “CAT D” vignette is used for most other entry clearances, typically for long-stay categories with leave to remain of six months or more including visit, employment, study and settlement visas. CAT D vignettes are generally valid for 30 days to enable the visa holder to travel to the UK and to collect their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) once in the country.
The Biometric Residence Permit
The purpose of the visa vignette is only to allow the traveller to travel to and enter the UK.
Once in the UK, you will need documentary evidence of your leave to remain in form of a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
The BRP is a physical card, the size of a UK driving licence, which confirms your identity and your immigration status. You may be asked to present your BRP when confirming your identification and Right to Work with your employer, or by a landlord as a Right to Rent check if you will be renting accommodation.
You will also need your BRP (along with your passport) when you travel in and out of the UK.
The BRP also confirms any rights you may have to public services or benefit entitlements.
BRP collection instructions will be provided in your visa decision letter, including where, when and how to pick up your BRP. For example, if you have to go to a specific Post Office to collect your BRP or if your sponsor has been approved by the Home Office to receive your BRP.
In most cases, you will have ten days from your date of arrival into the UK to collect your BRP.
If you fail to collect your BRP, you may be fined up to £1,000, although under temporary COVID-19 measures, the rules have been relaxed and the Government have confirmed visa holders will not be penalised for being unable to collect your BRP.
To avoid delays at the border, travellers may apply for an exempt vignette if they are exempt from UK immigration control and would not usually need a visa. An exempt visa is not mandatory but can speed up border processing.
You may apply for an exempt vignette if you are:
- a diplomat, or working for a diplomatic mission in the UK, and you were outside the UK when offered the post
- an overseas government minister on official business, or travelling with one as part of your job
- a member of Commonwealth or Overseas Territories armed forces posted in the UK or training in the UK
- a head of state, or working for a head of state (eg on a state visit)
- exempt from immigration control for any other reason
COVID response measures
Due to ongoing and changing COVID-19 travel restrictions, and where travel to the UK within the 30 day visa vignette period may be problematic, travellers should take advice on the current rules when they plan to travel.
DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration lawyers. We advise employers, sponsored workers and other travellers to the UK on entry and visa requirements, including issues relating to visa vignettes and BRPs. For advice on your UK Home Office application, speak to us.
Visa vignette FAQs
What is a UK vignette sticker?
If you are travelling to the UK on a visa for a stay of longer than 6 months, a visa vignette sticker will be placed in your passport or travel document, permitting you to travel to and enter the UK within the stated 30 day period.
What is an entry vignette?
An entry vignette allows certain UK visa holders to travel to and enter the UK. They must then collect their Biometric Residence Permit as evidence of their leave to remain.
What is the difference between visa and entry clearance?
If you apply for a UK visa of more than six months, you will be granted entry clearance for a period of 30 days with a visa vignette in your passport. You will need to enter the UK within this period. You will then collect your BRP as proof of your full visa.
Last updated: 12 December 2020