UK introduces biometric permit system

19, March, 2015

The UK Home Office has introduced a system of Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) for any non-EU nationals travelling to the UK for more than six months, meaning applicants will need to collect a BRP from a designated UK post office within a specified period.


Applicants will be issued with a 30-day vignette prior to arrival, which will be replaced with the BRP providing full grant of leave at the post office. Students can commence a course prior to obtaining BRP, although the host institution will need to verify both the short-term vignette and the BRP once collected.

The post office and 30-day travel window will be determined from information provided in students’ application forms.

In a statement issued to sponsors and employers regarding the changes, the Home Office said, “BRPs provide a more secure, streamlined and faster method for applicants and businesses to verify someone’s identity and right to be in the UK.”

Concerns have been expressed in the international education industry that the post office network may not be able to cope with the demand from international students to collect BRPs during the peak season at the start of the academic year, and international education bodies have previously lobbied for students to be allowed to collect BRPs from their institutions.

The Post Office information page for BRPs currently states it has over 100 branches offering this biometric service, which is less than one per cent of all post office branches in the country.

The Post Office also warns, “We're currently experiencing an increase in demand for this service. Saturdays and Mondays are our busiest days; therefore your waiting time could be reduced if you visit on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.”

The scheme has initially been rolled out for Pakistani nationals. According to an FAQ document sent to employers and sponsors, Phase 2 is estimated to be introduced in mid-April and includes key international student recruitment markets such as China, Nepal and Thailand.

Phase 3 is expected by the end of May and will include Nigeria, Japan, Malaysia, Korea and UAE. The BRP system is scheduled to be completed for all countries by the end of July. 

The Home Office has published guidance notes for applicants and sponsors.

In other news, while figures in the industry have expressed concern about the welcome message the UK government is sending to potential applicants overseas, a new survey commissioned by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), an education think tank, and Kaplan International Colleges has found domestic students are overwhelmingly positive about studying alongside international students.

In the poll of 500 UK students, 87 per cent said studying alongside international students would give them a better world view, 85 per cent said it would be useful preparation for working in a global environment, and 76 per cent said it would help to develop a global network.

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said, “UK policymakers have a tendency to exaggerate the costs and underestimate the benefits of students from abroad,” and called for other government departments to be given a role in migration policy setting.

Linda Cowan, Managing Director of Kaplan International Colleges, said, “An important finding of this research is the extent to which domestic students about to begin their university studies already anticipate benefits of studying alongside students from other countries.

“Kaplan recruits and prepares more than 6,500 international students for entry to UK universities, so we are well acquainted with the ways in which these students enrich the experience both in the classroom and socially. This survey data on the expectations of UK domestic students provide an interesting dimension to this picture.”




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