The phasing out of Physical Biometric Residence Permits – BRP renewal and what to do when it expires

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
24 January 2024

A Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) is a physical card that confirms your identity, your immigration status and any conditions of your stay, for example, whether you have the right to study and whether you have the right to any public services or benefits in the UK. A BRP will include your name, the date your BRP was issued and the date of expiry, your date of birth and your place of birth. In addition, as the name suggests, your BRP will include your biometric information, namely your fingerprints and a photo of your face.

Many will have noticed that their BRP expires on 31st December 2024 even when their leave to remain in the UK postdates this day. This is because the UK government has slowly been phasing out the use of the physical cards for some time, with a plan for the recognition of a person’s immigration status to be completely digital from 1st January 2025. This plan began pre-Brexit, as the EU required all EU member states to upgrade their encryption technology for these types of documents by the end of 2025. Instead of upgrading these physical documents with the new encryption technology, the Home Office has decided to phase out the issuing of physical cards altogether.

If this is the case for you and your BRP says that it expires on 31st December 2024, you don’t need to make an application for a BRP renewal. Instead, physical BRP cardholders will need to register for a UKVI account on the Home Office website sometime over the course of 2024. Registering for a UKVI account will not affect your current permission or immigration status. By registering for a UKVI account, you will be able to access an eVisa to prove your immigration status with a share code through the Home Office’s ‘View and Prove’ service. This share code will allow you to prove your right to work to an employer and your right to rent to a landlord. The share code can also be issued for other purposes, such as proving your right to study to educational institutions. These share codes can be used prior to the expiry of your physical BRP, however the Home Office has announced that individuals should still travel with their physical travel documents and visas for the time being. The Home Office has announced that they will be providing updates and further information and guidance on the process and complete phase out of physical BRPs throughout 2024.

If your BRP expires before 31st December 2024 and you have Indefinite Leave to Remain, then you will need to apply for a BRP renewal as per usual from within the UK. These applications for a BRP renewal need to be done online and you will usually receive a decision from the Home Office within 6 months of submitting your application. Your new BRP will also have an expiry date of 31st December 2024, so you will then also need to register for a UKVI account to access an eVisa and use the ‘View and Prove’ service before the end of 2024.

We have come across a number of people who have indefinite leave to remain and wish to make an application to renew their soon to expire BRP and who are eligible for naturalisation of British citizenship. Many aren’t aware that they may be eligible for naturalisation and we frequently assist a number of clients in successfully obtaining British citizenship on the basis of having indefinite leave to remain.

To apply for British citizenship down this route, the applicant must be over the age of 18 and be considered to be a person of good character. The applicant must have lived in the UK for at least 5 years, prove that they were in the UK exactly 5 years on the day that the application is submitted and intend to continue living in the UK. If the applicant is married to a British citizen, then the qualifying period is 3 years instead of 5.

The applicant will also have to provide travel details of any periods of absences that they spent outside the UK for the qualifying period and must be free from any UK immigration restrictions. In addition to this, the applicant has to show proof of their knowledge of the English language by taking an English test, unless the applicant has obtained an academic qualification which is equivalent to a UK Bachelor or Masters Degree or PhD or is a national of a majority English speaking country.

To apply for British citizenship, the applicant will also have to take a Life in the UK test which is a multiple choice test that consists of 23 questions to be answered in 45 minutes. Some applicant’s may be exempt from the English language requirement if they are aged 65 or over or have a long term mental or physical condition. If your BRP is due to expire soon or has already expired and you have indefinite leave to remain, you do not need to make an application to renew your BRP before applying for citizenship.