Say goodbye to the familiar visa stamps and Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) – the tangible evidence of one’s immigration status in the UK. The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is ushering in a new era, aiming to transition to a fully online Immigration Status (eVisa) by year-end.
The online immigration status journey began with European nationals under the EU Settlement Scheme and has expanded to include Skilled Workers and their dependants. The process involves using a UK Immigration: ID Check app for identity verification, followed by application form submission and supporting document uploads. The decision will arrive via email, granting non-visa nationals access to their eVisa, while visa nationals will still receive a BRP by post.
The government’s tech advancements in recent years have paved the way for this online shift by facilitating more efficient information sharing between agencies. The technology also allows non-British and Irish citizens to share their immigration status with employers and landlords through online-generated share codes.
The touted benefits of eVisas include:
- enhanced security;
- eliminating the risk of loss or tampering;
- quicker processing times; and
- easier verification at UK borders.
This shift marks a departure from the anxiety-inducing wait for physical documents and the hassle of arranging replacements in case of loss or theft and there are clear benefits. However, the question remains how efficient and reliable the system will be, especially at the outset while everyone adjusts to the new way of obtaining evidence of immigration status.
One concern will be the challenges it will present as airlines adjust. Whilst we are told that most airline carriers are conducting online checks, it remains a risk that smaller or more remote airline carriers may refuse to onboard passengers who do not present physical evidence of their right to travel to the UK.
Another concern is that issues seem to persist in the application process itself. Non-visa nationals using the app for ID verification typically receive an eVisa. However, app use mandates either a biometric passport from certain countries (EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland) or a BRP. So, if a non-visa national has already obtained an eVisa through the app but lacks a BRP, reusing the app becomes impossible. Those who need to make further applications, for extension or due to employer changes for example, will need to attend an appointment to enrol biometrics and are likely thereafter to receive a BRP. Unfortunately, despite reporting this to UKVI we have been told it remains low on their priority list.
Moreover, the absence of a tangible document confirming the visa expiration date, whether on a BRP card or the visa itself, elevates the likelihood of overlooking critical deadlines. It is strongly advised that individuals conscientiously record and monitor their visa expiry dates to prevent inadvertent oversights. Failing to do so may result in substantial complications and potentially lead to significant immigration ramifications.
A year is a long time in the world of immigration so we look forward with interest to see if all the issues currently being faced can be ironed out!