Starting this year, migrants applying for visas to enter the UK for more than six months will not be issued with long-term visas. Instead, a successful applicant will be issued with documentation allowing him or her to enter the UK to collect a Biometric Immigration Document (BID).

The roll-out of this new process for overseas applicants will be phased in from February 2015, starting with nationals of Pakistan. Click below for the list of the countries whose nationals will be required to obtain a BID:

From 31 July 2015, the BID process will apply to all overseas nationals.

Process to obtain a BID

The current UK visa application process requires applicants, whether applying overseas or in the UK, to enrol their biometric data, i.e. a scan of fingerprints and a digital photo. However, while migrants in the UK have been issued with a biometric residence permit (BRP), which is a type of BID, for the past few years, those applying overseas have simply been issued with visa endorsements in their passports.

As part of the new online application process for overseas applicants, an individual will now be required to provide an address (such as a sponsor's address or an intended residential address) in the UK which will determine from which one of the “almost 200” (out of 11,500) UK Post Office branches he or she may collect his or her BID.

A successful applicant will then receive two documents:

  • a decision letter which sets out the leave granted and explains the BID collection process; and
  • a short term visa vignette in the migrant's passport. This visa will have a validity of only 30 days from the expected date of travel to enable the migrant to travel to the UK and to collect his or her BID.

A migrant would then need to present both documents upon entry to the UK. Once in the UK, the migrant would need to attend the designated Post Office indicated on the decision letter to collect his or her BID within a specified timescale. Migrants should be aware that their BIDs can be cancelled if they fail to collect them within the timescale set by UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI).

Implications for employers carrying out ‘right to work’ checks

It is often the case that a migrant's start date of employment is shortly after his or her entry to the UK – sometimes as early as the same or next day. As UKVI currently states that neither the new decision letter nor the short term visa vignette can be used as evidence of a migrant's leave or rights while in the UK, it is vital that all migrants, particularly sponsored workers, promptly collect their BIDs.

Timely collection of a BID is also imperative as employers are required to carry out ‘right to work’ checks prior to the commencement of employment. It is not yet confirmed whether the Prevention of Illegal Working guidance will be amended to provide employers with some flexibility so that a migrant's initial visa and decision letter can be used evidence of a migrant’s right to work while the migrant awaits collection of his or her BID. However, based on UKVI's latest announcements, this is unlikely to be the case.