Recent immigrants in the United Kingdom will need to acquire a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) as one of their post-arrival requirements. But what is a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), and is a Biometric Residence Permit the same as a visa? While not visas, BRPs are a kind of document that British residents must carry as a form of identification. Read on to learn more about who needs a Biometric Residence Permit in UK countries, and for the answers to commonly asked questions such as “Where can I get my biometrics done in the UK?” Finally, discover the way to replace an expired BRP. All this and more, below.

What is a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)?

  • The Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) is a government-issued physical card carried by immigrants in the UK as a form of identification. 
  • In addition to your name and birthplace, the permit will also contain biometric information (your photo and fingerprints), and information about the terms of your immigration and the specific status that you hold. Finally, your BRP will detail your degree of access to UK welfare (such as if you are eligible for welfare and state-sponsored medical care). 
  • Certain BRP holders who flip their BRP over will find a National Insurance (NI) Number on the other side of their card. Depending on your visa category and other factors, you may need to apply for an NI number if your card is blank and you are not in possession of one (the absence of an NI on the back of a BRP permit does not necessarily mean that the holder does not have one). 
  • For those still asking “Is a Biometric Residence Permit the same as visa? Remember this important distinction: a visa will allow you to enter the UK, while a BRP will allow you to keep living there. You apply for a visa; you do not have to apply for a BRP. 

Who needs a Biometric Residence Permit for UK countries?

  • The following categories of immigrants will typically be granted a BRP in the UK:
    • Anyone who is pursuing long-term stay in the UK (i.e. attempting to stay over half a year).
    • Anyone who currently holds a visa allowing them to stay in the country for under six months who is attempting to extend that visa in order to stay over six months.
    • Those who are moving their visa from an expired travel document to a current passport.
    • Those who are looking to apply to settle in the UK.
    • Applicants for specific travel documents from the Home Office.
  • Please note that foreign applicants who upload their biometrics to the UK Immigration: ID Check app are exempt from BRP requirements due to their being granted what is in effect a digital BRP.

How to get a BRP

  • Please note that you do not apply for a BRP; the card is automatically given to newly arrived immigrants.
  • How to get a BRP varies depending on where you are submitting your UK visa application from: applicants who submitted their UK visa application domestically (i.e. while they were already in the country) will recieve their BRP by post (i.e. without having to pick it up from a secure location).
  • Once you are notified of your application’s success, you can expect to be in receipt of your BRP between a week and 10 days afterward.
  • Applicants should be mindful of the fact that their BRP will arrive at whatever destination they wrote down as their place of residence on their visa application. If you anticipate that your address will change, you should change it on your application prior to when a decision is made on it (once you are approved for a visa your BRP will already have been processed and be en-route to the address you originally provided).
  • Applicants who submitted their UK visa application while abroad will have to pick up their BRP in person (i.e. it will not be sent to them) from their sponsor or a specific Post Office.
  • The window for picking up BRPs for newly-arrived immigrants is strict: once you enter the UK, you will have 10 days to pick up your BRP (alternatively, you can pick it up before the expiration date passes on your visa vignette, provided it expires after the 10 day window and not before).
  • Applicants who decide to collect their BRP from a Post Office location other than the one they previously selected may do so, provided they go in person to the desired location and pay the cost. Please note that you may only select a Post Office location which has a BRP collection service.

Who can collect a BRP?

  • Immigrants 18+ years old. 
  • Parents of children who have received BRPs who are nominated to pick them up. 
  • Nominated individuals who were selected by a recipient who (for medical or other significant reasons) cannot themselves travel to pick it up. In order to be eligible to pick up your BRP, a nominee will need to possess either their passport, an EU country ID, or their own BRP (in addition to the applicant’s passport, which the nominee must bring with them when they collect the BRP). 

Where can I get my biometrics done in UK countries?

  • You can have your biometrics collected at either a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point or a Service and Support Centre (SSC). For help finding a branch of these service centers in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Wales, contact us here.

Replacing an expired BRP

  • The way to replace an expired BRP is determined by the status of the holder as well as where they are located.
  • For example, if you are abroad when your BRP expires, you must obtain a “replacement BRP visa,” rather than a traditional BRP. You can use this “visa” to return to the country; once you arrive you will apply to replace your expired document.
  • However, those who are in the country on a more permanent form of status (such as those who successfully apply to settle in the UK) can apply from within the country by contacting us here.
  • Finally, if you need to replace your BRP because your UK visa is nearing its expiration point (visa dates tend to correspond with BRP dates) you should renew your visa and then wait to receive a BRP. In this scenario, you don’t have to do anything to replace your BRP as you will simply be sent a new one once your visa extension is approved.

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