If you are applying for a visa to the United Kingdom, you may have heard about visa vignettes issued for UK visas. But what is a UK visa vignette (and for that matter, what is an entry vignette?) and how does it differ from the Biometric Residence Permit? Today’s blog will answer these questions, as well as provide an overview of the types of visa vignettes issued for UK visas. Read on to for BRP collection instructions, to learn the difference between a CAT C vignette and a CAT D vignettes, and for an understanding of “vignette validity” in the context of the UK visa. 

What is a UK visa vignette?

  • What is an entry vignette, and is it the same thing as a visa vignette?
    • A UK visa or entry vignette is essentially your physical visa to the UK, which allows you to gain entry to the country. Typically, vignettes expire a month or so after arrival to the UK. Post-expiry, your Biometric Residency Permit (BRP) will effectively replace your vignette as what authorizes you to remain living in the country.
    • Applicants who submitted their fingerprints and photos for a UK visa via visa application centers (i.e. those who had travel in order to submit their biometrics at a physical location versus those who uploaded their info electronically) will receive a vignette.
    • The vignette is in the form of a sticker. This sticker will be pasted into your travel document (passport) and will serve as your visa to the UK. When you attempt to gain entry to the UK for the first time, the relevant border authorities will check for your vignette.
    • In addition to allowing you to gain entry to the UK, your visa vignette will also display essential facts about your terms of stay in the country. These include your vignette validity (i.e. your visa validity period/how long you can remain in the country), your visa “type” (i.e. Work visa, Student visa, etc.), and other guidelines for your stay. Your visa vignette could therefore reflect whether or not you are eligible to work in the country (and under what conditions you can seek employment), and/or apply for public welfare.

How to obtain a visa vignette

  • Anyone who successfully applies for a UK visa will be automatically granted a visa vignette. Because vignettes are automatically pasted into the respective travel documents of successful applicants, the process for obtaining a visa vignette simply involves picking up your passport from your visa application center (in the case of applicants who submitted their passports at the visa application center they submitted their biometrics at). Applicants who did not submit their passport at the visa application center they applied through must bring their travel document to said visa application center, which will then grant them a vignette. 
  • Alternatively, applicants who pre-paid to have their vignette sent to them may receive their vignette (i.e. their passport containing their vignette) in the mail, without having to collect it in person from the visa application center. 
  • Please note that Qataris, Omanis, and Kuwaitis who receive an electronic visa waiver will receive a digital version of an authorization allowing them to enter the UK (i.e. not a physical visa vignette). 

Types of visa vignettes issued for UK visas

  • There are three main types of visa vignettes issued for UK visas. These are: 
    • CAT C vignette
      • An infrequently issued vignette granted to short-term visa holders and those transiting through the country. 
    • CAT D vignettes
      • The most frequently issued vignette; the vignette category ultimately received by the vast majority of UK visa, which will allow them to enter the UK. 
    • Exempt vignette
      • An exempt vignette is available to those who are typically “exempt” from immigration control. Examples of categories of persons who are eligible to apply for a vignette include the foreign presidents and prime ministers, diplomats, and other official ministers. 

The Biometric Residence Permit

  • Please note that a visa vignette is not the same thing as a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). Whereas a vignette is essentially physical proof of your UK visa (and therefore something you must obtain in order to enter the country) a BRP is a type of authorization that allows long-term UK visa holders to continue living legally in the country (and is therefore obtained post-UK arrival). 
  • Because BRPs, unlike most vignettes, are not automatically granted to UK visa applicants, you will need to follow the specific BRP collection instructions that apply to your situation.
  • Applicants who lodged their UK visa application while abroad are required to go in person to pick up their BRP from either their visa sponsor (for applicants who pre-selected this choice) or a specific Post Office location. Please note that applicants who fall into this general category are required to obtain their BRP in the immediate aftermath (i.e. 10 days of) their UK arrival. However, if you still have time left on your vignette (i.e. your vignette will not expire within 10 days of your entry) you may pick up your BRP until it expires (so long as its expiration date falls after the 10 day period). 
  • Please note that applicants must show their vignette in order to pick up their BRP. 
  • In contrast, applicants who lodge their UK visa application while already in the UK can expect to receive their BRP in the mail, typically between a week and 10 days after they are notified of their successful UK visa application. Applicants will provide an address on their application; if their application is approved, their vignette will arrive at that pre-specified location. In the event that you are no longer reachable at this address, it is your responsibility to change your address while you await a decision on your visa (i.e. not after you receive it). 
  • Applicants who fall into a category which allows them to access their immigration status online do not receive either a BRP or a vignette. 

Please note that it is your responsibility to identify any informational mistakes on your vignette, and report said mistakes to the visa application center (if you identify the mistake prior to entering the UK) or to the Visa and Immigration—UKVI (if you identify the mistake after having already entered the country. If you fall into the latter category and you fail to notify UKVI of the mistake before you have spent three months in the UK, you will need to submit another application. For further information on visa vignettes and BRPs, contact us here.

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