What is a biometric residence permit?

Zorica Lončar

If you’re applying for a visa or immigration status for the UK, one of the documents you’re likely to encounter is a biometric residence permit (BRP). This permit is essential for a number of reasons, including confirming your identity.

In this guide, we’ll run through exactly what a BRP is, who needs one and what it’s used for. And crucially, how to get your biometric residence permit - whether you’re applying from outside or inside the UK.

And while you’re sorting out your visa, it could be a good time to think about how you’ll manage your money while in the UK.

The Wise multi-currency account offers the ideal solution for international students, travellers and expats, with the chance to hold, send and convert 50+ currencies at the mid-market exchange rate

But more on that later. Let’s get back to biometric residence permits.

What is a biometric residence permit (BRP)?

A biometric residence permit is an official document issued by the UK Government Home Office. It’s a plastic card, similar to a driving licence or other identity card. It contains the following information²:

  • Your name, date of birth and place of birth
  • Your immigration status and conditions of your stay
  • A photo of your face and a copy of your fingerprints - this is known as your biometric information
  • Details of whether you can access public services such as health and benefits.

Some BRP cards, but not all, have National Insurance (NI) numbers on them². Each card has a chip to prevent fraud, forgery and abuse.

It’s important not to get BRPs mixed up with biometric residence cards (BRC). Although very similar in name, they are quite different. BRCs are UK residence cards usually issued to people living in the UK who have family members in the EU, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway or Liechtenstein. These cards have ‘residence card’ printed on them².

What is a BRP used for?²

Biometric residence permits can be used to confirm your identity. This can be useful for things like opening a bank account, for example. They can also prove your right to study in the UK, and your right to access public health services, benefits and other public funds you’re entitled to.

BRP cards can’t be used to prove your right to work, or to rent a property.

Who needs a biometric residence permit?

BRP cards are designed for people in specific circumstances. You’ll usually get one if²:

  • You’re applying to come to the UK for more than 6 months, or you’re extending your visa to longer than 6 months
  • You’ve applied to settle permanently in the UK
  • You’re transferring your visa to a new passport
  • You’re applying for other Home Office travel documents, such as a Certificate of Travel or a Refugee Travel Document.

How to get a biometric residence permit

The first thing to know is that you don’t need to apply separately for your BRP². You’ll automatically get one if one of the circumstances above applies to you.

However, you will need to provide your biometric information. This involves a digital photo of your face being taken, and your fingerprints scanned on a glass screen. It only takes around 5 minutes³.

How you provide your biometric information depends on whether you’re applying for a visa or immigration status from inside the UK, or in another country.

Applying from inside the UK

If you’re already in the UK, you’ll simply need to go to a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point or a Service and Support Centre (SSC)³. You can find details of where to find your nearest on the Government’s website.

There is a fee of £19.20 to pay to provide your biometric information³. Once it’s ready, your BRP will be sent to your UK address⁴.

Applying from outside the UK

If you’re applying from another country outside the UK, you’ll need to find your nearest visa application centre³.

The fee to provide your biometrics will be included in your application fee³. You’ll need to collect your BRP once you arrive in the UK⁵.

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If you’re looking into how to manage your money between the UK and another country, check out the Wise multi-currency account. It’s free to open online, and there are no subscription fees to worry about.

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Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing for the most up-to-date pricing and fee information.

Sources used:

  1. Wise - terms and conditions
  2. GOV.UK - Biometric Residence Permits
  3. GOV.UK - Biometric Residence Permits - Personal Data
  4. GOV.UK - Biometric Residence Permits - Getting your BRP if you applied from inside the UK
  5. GOV.UK - Biometric Residence Permits - Getting your BRP if you applied from outside the UK

Sources last checked on date: 07-Oct-2022


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