The UK digitisation process continues: the end of bio-metric residence permits
“Students with a course end date beyond 31 December 2024 have been left confused and panicked”
Since July 2015, the Bio-metric Residence Permit has been the main immigration status document held by those with a UK visa valid for longer than six months.
It is widely known that BRPs in circulation failed to incorporate next generation encryption technology, which was essential in order to meet specific EU requirements. At the time, the EU advised that BRPs can only be valid until 31 December 2024, and, although this notice has since been lifted by the EU, the UK has progressed with its plans to digitalise immigration status.
As part of the transition into the realms of digital status, individuals can prove their immigration status via the “View and Prove Your Immigration Status” online service.
Students with a course end date beyond 31 December 2024 have, in particular, been left confused and panicked when BRPs note this end date despite their registrations for a longer course.
As a result, institutions have been faced with questions such as “Do I need to have my BRP corrected?” or “Do I need to pay more money to have my visa extended?” but the answer is simply, no.
Fundamentally, the expiration date of 31 December 2024 is solely based on the card’s expiration and not on the student’s total leave to remain in the UK. It is expected in early 2024 for the UKVI to publish further details on how a student can prove their immigration status with an expectation of heavy reliance on the Home Office’s online system.
But what are the early steps sponsors can take to best prepare for this upcoming change?
In 2020, the Home Office introduced the “UK ID check app”, allowing EU/EEA/Swiss nationals to apply for their visa and to receive digital confirmation of their immigration status. Upon the retirement of the BRP, this digital expansion is expected to become the primary source of proving student immigration status for all visa and non-visa nationals.
Sponsors should consider undertaking early reviews to identify potential knock-on effects to existing record keeping processes and the changes required to ensure systems can accurately capture and record digital status information, as explained in Appendix D of the Sponsorship Guidance.
Right to Study checks
The move to verifying digital immigration status will naturally impact existing RTS checks during enrolment/registration events. These checks can be carried out using a share code generated by the student using their online digital visa status account so that the sponsor can verify the immigration status directly with UKVI.
This will allow the sponsor to secure evidence of RTS, as with BRP cards, before the enrolment/registration events take place.
When implementing/reviewing RTS processes, the following points should be considered:
- Operational Processes. Sponsors may wish to consider and adapt how they conduct these checks operationally. Where there are significant changes on the horizon, all operational steps should be reviewed considering compliance requirements avoiding detriment to the student’s experience or risk to the institution.
- Capture all Appendix D documentation. Sponsors are required to check the date the student entered the UK, which can be in the form of an entry stamp, a flight ticket or an official document confirming entry into the UK. This is an essential check for sponsors to confirm that the student has travelled to the UK within the permitted entry period of their visa and has not entered the UK prematurely. The physical flight documents aren’t required to be retained on file, only the entry date is required to be recorded.
- Reporting requirements. Proactive steps to secure evidence of RTS provides the opportunity to rectify any anomalies in status prior to the commencement of studies. On occasion, a student’s status can be issued incorrectly with rights that are not in line with their sponsor or level of course. It should be noted that it continues to be institutions’ responsibility to accurately review and take steps to report where such instances occur and an immigration offence if the student participates in any activities which have been incorrectly granted.
- Communication. Providing clear and early pre-arrival information is key to a students’ smooth onboarding experience. With so much to remember at the start of the academic year, students often benefit from clear, step-by-step guidance in readiness for their day-one RTS checks. Communication is particularly important to ensure students only arrive once a decision has been made on their application and only travel within the validity dates confirmed in their decision email.
- Winding down of Alternative Collection Location (ACL) for the delivery of BRPs
- Literature updates for students regarding RTS documentation requirements
- Staff training on updated RTS process
- Removal of need for reporting processes for lost or stolen BRPs
About the author: Sanjay Parmar is Senior Immigration Consultant at Fragomen. For further information on UK student visa immigration requirements, please contact Sanjay at email@example.com.