Process of Biometric Registration while applying for UK Visa


The United Kingdom immigration process is defined through a set of laws that exist to regulate the entire procedure for the government. Immigration contains a wide range of categories that an individual who is not a permanent resident of the UK might wish to enter the UK on. The government department responsible for handling all immigration cases in the UK is known as the Home Office. Headed by the Secretary of State, the Home Office decides whether an individual should enter the UK or if he/she should be refused entry. The Home Office also sits over cases of asylum, deportation and detention. However, the Home Office makes these decisions based on the laws of the United Kingdom, which it is obligated to abide by. If a person had a decision made against him/her which he/she feels is against domestic or international law, an appeal can be lodged in an appeals court where the immigration law is revisited to see whether the Home Office was in breach of UK law or not. Permission to the individual is granted in the form of a legal document known as a ‘visa’. Any person who has been granted a visa can enter the UK legally. The UK government has divided the visa into five categories, out of which four are currently functional i.e. tier 1 visa, tier 2 visa, tier 4 visa and tier 5 visa. EU citizens do not need to apply to a visa as they do not require permission to enter the UK under the Schengen Agreement.

The immigration laws of the United Kingdom are compiled and separated in categories in a document known as the UK Immigration Rules. These laws define regulatory procedures for all visa categories along with defining the requirements of each visa (such as tier 2 general visa requirements, tier 1 visa requirements, tier 1 investor visa investments, business entrepreneur visa UK requirements, tier 5 temporary worker visa requirements etc).

The ‘Points Based System’ is a measuring system set up by the UK government to determine whether an individual applying on any visa has met the requirements of that visa category (such as tier 4 student visa requirements, tier 1 investor visa investments, business entrepreneur visa UK requirements, tier 5 visa requirements etc) before submitting his/her visa application. This is done by the applicant being awarded a certain number of points each time a requirement is met and when the required numbers of points are secured, the applicant is deemed eligible to apply for the visa. It should be noted that the number of points required varies from category to category.

One of the mandatory requirements of all visa types is the Biometric Registration of any applicant who is not a permanent resident of the UK. Biometric registration includes collecting applicant information such as a recent photograph, fingerprint ID, country of birth, date of birth etc. The procedures and regulations of the biometric registration requirement are defined in regulations of Immigration for registration of biometric as given in 2008 which the Home Office is obligated to follow.

The following discussion will look at the biometric registration process in detail and all the mandatory requirements of it that the applicants must fulfill. When the biometric information has been collected, a ‘biometric document’ is issued to the applicant applying for a visa which details all the information related to the data that was collected along with containing proof that the applicant has complied with the biometric information collection request.

Information required in a Biometric Registration Document 

Biometric information can be requested from any applicant applying on any visa category (whether it be student visa, work visa, UK business visa etc.). The biometric registration form will require the applicant to provide the following information as part of the visa application process:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Country of origin
  • The applicant’s nationality
  • The applicant’s gender
  • The applicant’s period of stay in the UK
  • The visa category the applicant is to stay in the UK under
  • The conditions set in the visa which the applicant is to stay in the UK under (for a limited period of time)
  • The applicant’s facial image
  • The applicant’s signature

The applicant’s photograph must be one which an authorized representative of the UK government has taken and cannot be provided by the applicant himself/herself. This is done by the government official scheduling an appointment with the applicant which he/she must attend. The applicant’s fingerprints will also be taken during this appointment. The time, date and place will be specified by the government official beforehand. The individual will also be asked to bring along any additional documents asked or be asked to take any necessary action to confirm his/her identity.

It should be noted that an applicant refusing to provide any of the information listed above will not be eligible to apply for a visa and as a result, he/she will not be allowed to enter the UK.

Conditions under which Biometric Registration is required

  • A person who is applying to extend his/her stay in UK for a limited period of time will need to apply for biometric registration.
  • A person who is applying to permanently settle in UK will need to apply for biometric registration.
  • If a person wishes to change a stamp, sticker or any other attachment on a passport or any other document which served as proof that the person was granted permission to stay in the UK on any visa category (such as UK work visa, UK business visa, UK student visa etc.) for a limited period of time or indefinitely, biometric registration will be required.
  • If a person wishes to change an official letter issued by the government that served as proof that the person was allowed to legally stay in the UK for a limited period of time or indefinitely, biometric registration will be required.
  • If a person is to stay in the UK after being recognized by the government as a refugee or in need of humanitarian protection, the person’s biometric information will need to be recorded.
  • If the person is legally identified as being stateless under Article 1 of the Stateless Convention, his/her biometric information will be required. Biometric registration can also be required if the stateless person is applying for a Convention Travel Document, a Travel Certificate or a Stateless Person’s Travel Document.
  • If the person is applying as a dependant on the visa of another individual, biometric information will need to be collected.

According to the Immigration Rules 56U and 56R paragraphs, those individuals who are identify as Paralympics or Olympic Games visitor as member of family, Paralympics or Olympic Games visitor as child member of family, is not required to apply for biometric registration.

Will the person’s biometric information be kept by the UK government after the visa application process is completed?

As stated in the Immigration (Biometric Registration) Regulations of 2008, the Secretary of State holds the power to retain and use the biometric information of any individual under certain circumstances. These circumstances are as follows:

  • The Secretary of State can use a record kept of an individual’s fingerprints or photographs (of his/her face) if it is connection with a law stated in any of the Immigration Acts that have been passed over the years.
  • If the purpose of keeping or using the record is to control the borders of the United Kingdom.
  • If the purpose of keeping or using the record relates in any way to an issue of nationality.
  • If the individual’s biometric information retention or use is in relation to an investigation, prevention or prosecution of an offence
  • If the Secretary of State feels that keeping or using the record is necessary to the safekeeping of national security
  • If the use or retention is related to the identification of any victim of an event that resulted in the loss of life, illness or injury.
  • If the use or retention of the biometric information is related to assessing whether an individual has broken any law or not. This could be determining whether the individual tried to benefit or did benefit from an act or service that is against the law.

But, if it is determined that the individual does not fall under any of the above listed scenarios and his/her biometric information is no longer needed, the Secretary of State must clear any copies or record of the individual’s biometric information.

Furthermore, if any individual proves that he/she is a British citizen or a Commonwealth citizen who has been granted the right of abode, any previously held copies or records of that individual’s biometric information must be cleared immediately.

It is the responsibility of the Secretary of State to safeguard the biometric information of all individuals and to make sure access to such data is blocked from any unauthorized individual. The Secretary of State might also require the applicant to submit other documents related to his/her immigration case and he/she is obligated to comply with this request.

Do children also need to submit their biometric information?

If a person is under the age of 16, the UK government will categorize him/her as a child and he/she not required to submit their biometric information except when an authorized government official assesses that the child’s biometric information is being taken under the supervision of an adult (over the age of 18) who is either the child’s parent or guardian or an individual who has legally taken responsibility of the child.

It should be noted however that the person who has taken responsibility of the child must not be an official working under the Secretary of State or an immigration official; or any person who is acting on behalf of the immigration official or a person working under the Secretary of State.

Furthermore, an authorized government official can also request the biometric information of any person who he/she reasonably believes is not a child under the age of sixteen.

Can the biometric immigration document that was issued to the applicant be asked back?

The Home Office possesses the right to order a person’s biometric immigration document to be returned if:

  • It is discovered that the information provided in the document is false, misleading or incomplete.
  • If it is discovered that the document has been altered, destroyed or damaged whether if the actions of the person were intentional or not.
  • If the Home Office recognizes a case of the person’s original document being copied or any other action performed in an attempt to copy the document (be the attempt successful or unsuccessful), the document can be asked to be returned.
  • If the document holder’s period of stay is to be changed, cancelled or voided, the document can be asked to be returned to the Home Office.
  • If any third person or party has acquired hold of the document without the consent of the Secretary of State/Home Office or the person who was issued the document.
  • The document can be ordered to be returned if the holder of the document passes away.
  • If the document holder cannot produce a valid passport or travel document on request of an immigration officer, the document can be ordered to be returned.
  • In the case where a person has proved that he/she is a citizen of the UK or a commonwealth citizen who has been granted the right of abode, the document will no longer be needed and the Secretary of State/Home Office will order it to be returned.

Under any of these circumstances, the document holder must comply with the request of the Secretary of State.