Biometric Immigration Document and its Importance in UK Visa Process


The United Kingdom immigration process is regulated by domestic and international laws that have been passed over the years. These laws exist to assist the UK government to make decisions on immigration cases following procedures and policies defined in these laws. Any foreigner who wishes to enter the UK for any one of many reasons can do so and permission is granted in the form of a legal document known as a ‘visa’. The visa is a document that serves as proof that the individual has legal right to enter the UK based on conditions that have been set for him/her in the visa. The UK government has divided the visa into 5 types, out of which 4 are currently functional i.e. UK tier 1, tier 2, tier 3 and tier 4. The tier 3 visa was created for low skilled workers who wished to enter the UK but currently has not been made functional by the government. Citizens of the EU do not need to apply for a visa and follow a lengthy process to apply as they have legal right to enter the UK freely under the Schengen Agreement. This free movement agreement gives EU citizens the right to visit, work or settle in the UK without applying for a visa. UK citizens, in turn, can do the same in any EU country of their liking.

The government department responsible for overlooking all immigration related cases is known as the Home Office. Headed by the UK Secretary of State, the Home Office also handles asylum, deportation and detention cases along with handling visa applications of all individuals who wish to enter the UK. However, the Home Office does not make these decisions out of principle as it is obligated to abide by laws of the United Kingdom. If any person who has had a decision taken against him/her has reason to believe that the Home Office acted against the law, he/she can make an appeal in appeals court. It is common for decisions taken against the individual to be reversed by an appeals court judge in the UK.

The regulatory procedure and policies for every visa category is defined in the UK Immigration Rules; a legal document that contains the rules and requirement of each visa type (student visa, visit visa, home office investor visa, England entrepreneur visa, UK startup visa etc.) currently functional in the UK. The Secretary of State is obligated to abide by the Immigration Rules and failure in an immigration case to do so can result in that decision being reversed.

Every visa category comes with own set of requirements that an applicant applying on that category must fulfill. An applicant can check the Points Based System to see whether he/she has the minimum number of points needed to be eligible for a certain visa type. The points are awarded each time a requirement of the visa is fulfilled and when the required points are gained, the applicant is counted as having fulfilled all the requirements of the visa. The number of points varies from category such as the UK tier 1 home office investor visa requiring 75 points while the Entrepreneur visa requires 95 points. One such mandatory requirement of almost all visa types (such as student visa, work visa, business visa, England entrepreneur visa, UK startup visa etc.) is the Biometric Registration process.

Biometric Registration Process

Defined in the Immigration (Biometric Registration) Regulations of 2008, the biometric registration process exists for almost all categories of visas where the applicant is asked to submit information such as facial photograph and fingerprint scans. This information is necessary before the application can be submitted and failure to comply in this manner will see the visa application being refused for submission to the Home Office. Other information such as country of origin, applicant’s signature, date of birth, applicant’s nationality is also required whereas any information provided that is discovered to be false can result in the visa application being cancelled.

It should be noted that the facial photograph cannot be submitted by the applicant as a UK government official will take a photograph of the applicant to be submitted for the visa application. Government officials book an appointment with the applicant where the photograph and other biometric information are collected.

After the information is collected and the entire biometric registration process is completed, the government issues the applicant a ‘Biometric Immigration Document’ which details the information along with serving as official proof for the application process.

Furthermore, the government holds the right to retain the information collected after the visa application process is completed under certain conditions as defined in the Immigration (Biometric Registration) Regulations of 2008.

Biometric Immigration Document

The biometric immigration document or biometric residence permit is required of the applicant if he/she wishes to stay in the UK for a period longer than 6 months. The document serves as legal proof that the individual is legally allowed to be in the UK. It also contains the period of stay the individual is allowed in the UK along with details regarding whether the individual has access to public services and benefits or not. The document can also be used as identification. However, it is not needed by EU citizens.

The document is required by all individuals residing for 6 months in UK, who wish to apply for an extension on any visa, who wish to apply for permanent settlement in the UK, who wish to change their visa category, or any individual who wishes to apply for any travel documents from the Home Office. The document can also serve as proof for the individual to show to his/her employer, to any university that he/she has legal permission to stay, work or study in the United Kingdom.

Furthermore, it should be noted that applicants do not need to apply for this document separately as it is a mandatory requirement during the visa application process where the applicant’s biometric details (signature, name, date of birth etc) and biometric data (fingerprints, photographs) are collected.

In the case an applicant is already in the UK, he/she can submit the biometric information at specific post office branches for a fee of £19.20. Visit the Post Office’s official website for further information at www.postoffice.co.uk/foreign-nationals-enrolment-biometric-residence-permit. If the applicant requires this information to be processed within a day’s notice, he/she can visit a premium service centre who will charge £400 for this service. For further information, visit the following website: www.gov.uk/ukvi-premium-service-centres.

How will an applicant receive Biometric Immigration Document if he/she is applying from outside of the UK?

If an applicant is currently outside of the UK and is applying overseas for a visa, the biometric immigration document/biometric residence permit can be collected when he/she arrives in the country. The document must be collected within the first 10 of arrival from a Post Office branch as detailed in the decision letter that was given to the applicant.

A ‘visa vignette’, a stick-in pasted on the passport, can be used for the first 30 days for individuals who are entering the UK for the first time in place of a biometric document. However, a biometric immigration document will be required after this time period.

Furthermore, individuals should note that they are not required to carry a biometric immigration document/biometric residence permit at all times as it is only required when the person is entering or leaving the UK.

All individuals are required to apply for a new biometric residence permit when period of stay in the UK expires.

Can the biometric immigration document that was issued to a person be cancelled by the Home Office?

Yes, certain scenarios exist under which the Secretary of State/Home Office has the legal right to cancel a biometric immigration document that was issued to a person. These scenarios are listed as follows:

  • If any information provided in the document is discovered to be false, misleading or incomplete, the Secretary of State holds the right to cancel the document making it useless.
  • If in the scenario the document has been lost or stolen.
  • If it is discovered that the document has been changed, damaged or destroyed by the person, whether the action was deliberate or not, the document can be cancelled.
  • If the document issued was copied, or an attempt was made to copy the document, or any other action that would have resulted in the document being copied; the document can be revoked.
  • If the person was asked to surrender/return the biometric immigration document and failed to comply with the request, the document can be revoked by the Secretary of State.
  • If the document requires changing or for any other reason the document needs to be reissued to the person.
  • If third person or party has gotten hold of the document without the consent of the person or the Secretary of State, the document can be cancelled by the Secretary of State.
  • If the person passes away, the document that was issued to him/her can be cancelled.
  • If at any time during this process the person provides evidence that he/she is a citizen of the UK or a Commonwealth citizen who holds the right of abode, the biometric document will no longer be required and can be voided by the Secretary of State.

What powers does the UK government have if an applicant refuses to comply with a request for biometric information?

If an applicant fails to comply with a request to provide biometric information during the visa application process, it can result in the following consequences dependant on the scenario:

  • The Home Office can deny the applicant of the biometric immigration document along with denying his/her request to enter the UK under the visa applied for.
  • If an applicant applied for an extension on his/her visa, the Home Office can refuse the request and force the applicant to leave the UK.
  • An applicant currently staying in the UK on any visa can have his/her period of stay changed or cancelled.

The same consequences defined above also apply to any person applying as a dependant on any visa.

Scenarios for the Biometric Immigration Document under which the Home Office must be notified

Scenarios under which the Home Office must be notified regarding any concern faced with the document are:

  • If the individual feels that any information he/she has provided in the document become false or misleading (or was false or misleading).
  • If the individual feels that some (or all) of the information provided in the document is incomplete, he/she must notify the Home Office of this.
  • In the scenario a document has been misplaced, lost or stolen, the Home Office must be notified immediately.
  • If the individual is of the opinion that the biometric immigration document, or any information within the document, has been altered whether intentionally or unintentionally, then the Home Office must be notified.
  • If it is suspected that a third party or person has gotten hold of the document without the consent of the applicant or any government official under the directive of the Secretary of State to do so, the applicant must notify the Home Office.