Biometric Residence Permits

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Entry clearance may cause difficulties for university students

The anticipated roll out of biometric residence permits for those granted entry clearance is likely to cause real difficulties for people arriving in the UK and long delays at Post Office branches.

Biometric scans and students
Emma Brooksbank, Immigration Solicitor at Simpson Millar LLP’s Leeds Office argues that this will be felt acutely at peak times, such as the beginning of the academic year when tens of thousands of international students arrive in the UK to start their studies in key university cities such as Manchester and Leeds.

What is a Biometric Residence Permit?

In-country applications for leave to remain and indefinite leave to remain currently include an application for a biometric residence permit. This is a card which is endorsed with the applicant’s grant of leave, conditions of leave, signature and biometric information including their finger print.

The card is sent to an applicant on successful completion of the application process.

What is Changing?

People applying for entry clearance from overseas are currently required to enrol their biometrics by having their fingerprints and photograph taken as part of the application process. They are not issued with a biometric residence permit. Their entry clearance is endorsed in their passport.

Biometric residence permits are to be introduced for entry clearance applications. These changes will be brought in with the introduction of the Immigration (Biometric Registration) (Amendment) Regulations 2015.

Following the changes entry clearance will only be issued for a 30 day period. This will be endorsed in a person’s passport to enable them to enter the UK. Prior to entry, they will be required to nominate one of 200 participating Post Offices at which they intend to collect their biometric residence permit. They will then be required to attend the nominated Post Office to collect their card within 10 days of entering.

How Will This Affect You?

The Post Office is unlikely to have capacity to deal with the huge influx of people, particularly international students, attending to collect their permits. At peak times, such as the start of the academic year, each nominated Post Office can anticipate the attendance of hundreds if not thousands of people to collect their permits.

Figures from the UK Council of International Student Affairs (UKCISA) show that in 2013-2014 there were 355,580 international students in the UK. Students at the University of Leeds made up a significant part of the 33,635 international students in Yorkshire and Humber, while the University of Manchester was the 2nd largest recruiter of international students with 11,605 students joining the university during this period.

Home Office statistics show a rise in student visas in each quarter of 2014.

For international students at large university cities, such as Leeds and Manchester, this is likely to cause real difficulties in the initial period following arrival in the United Kingdom as demand at Post Office branches outstrips capacity.

For the university sector, this is unwelcome as it is likely to further deter international students from electing to study in the United Kingdom.

Regular users of the Post Office are likely to experience long queues during peak times in the summer and autumn.

When Will The Changes Be Introduced?

It is expected that the new scheme will be introduced for applicants from Pakistan from March 2015 and will then be rolled out for 31 further countries, mainly in Asia and Europe, followed by 35 further countries until the scheme applies to all applicants from 31 July 2015.

What Happens if a Biometric Permit is Not Collected?

If a person does not collect their permit in time, they may be liable to pay a civil penalty. This is proposed to be set at £125.

The Home Office has not confirmed what provision will be made for delays in provision of the biometric residence permit caused by the Home Office or the Post Office. There is concern for migrants, particularly international students, who enter with their initial entry clearance but who are unable to collect their biometric residence permit within 10 days, either due delays at the Home Office with the issue of the permit or delays at the Post Office caused by pressures at peak times.

No reassurance has yet been given to those who find themselves approaching the end of the initial entry clearance but who have not been able to collect their biometric residence permit. It is unclear whether the initial short term entry clearance visa will be sufficient to satisfy the proposed right to rent checks which are currently under a pilot scheme in the Midlands but which are likely to be rolled out nationwide. It is also unclear whether a student will be able to enrol on their course with the initial entry clearance visa.


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