New procedures for biometric residence permits to take effect soon

3 Feb 15

UNITED KINGDOM

IMPACT – HIGH

What is the change? The United Kingdom will soon introduce biometric residence permits (a credit-card sized document) for overseas applicants applying for stays longer than six months, replacing full-validity visa stamps in passports.

What does the change mean? Overseas applicants will have to comply with new procedures: the regular visa stamp will be replaced by a 30-day travel vignette permitting travel to the U.K. to collect the biometric residence permit within 10 days of arrival.

  • Implementation timeframe: The new procedures will be rolled out to various countries over a four-month period beginning in March. BAL will publish further updates as the rollout schedule is announced.
  • Visas/permits affected: All U.K. entry categories for business, work, and family travel.
  • Who is affected: Non-EEA nationals applying from overseas to stay in the U.K. for longer than six months.
  • Impact on processing times: Overseas processing times for approval should not be affected by the procedural change. However, the new 30-day restriction on collection of the biometric residence permit in the U.K. adds a time-sensitive step to the process, which affects the end-to-end processing time and potentially creates a new sense of urgency when an employee arrives in the U.K.
  • Business impact: Overseas applicants will have to pay close attention that they designate the most convenient postal location for picking up their permits and that they observe the 10-day deadline for pick-up. Employers should be familiar with the 30-day travel vignette for purposes of conducting right-to-work checks of employees who start work before obtaining their permits.
  • Next steps: Implementation of the new procedures is subject to Parliament’s approval. BAL is following these changes and will update clients as implementation dates near for individual countries.

Background: The new procedures comply with an EU regulation requiring member states to issue biometric residence permits. Under the new procedures, a foreign employee applying from abroad will indicate date of travel and a U.K. address with postal code. Instead of a visa stamp denoting the full period of stay, the foreign employee’s passport will be stamped with a 30-day, short-validity vignette. The vignette allows the employee to enter the U.K. and pick up the biometric residence permit within 10 days of arrival at a designated post office. The pick-up location is based on the postal code entered on the visa application form. Applicants may request a change in pick-up location, but it will cause delay and incur a charge. If the applicant must leave the U.K. before collecting the permit, he or she may make multiple entries on the vignette within the 30-day validity period, but once the vignette expires, he or she must apply for a new one.

In 2012, the U.K. completed implementation for in-country applicants. To date, the Home Office has issued approximately 1.8 million biometric permits, including to people extending their visas or settling or transferring their conditions in the U.K. In conjunction with the U.K. Post Office and secure document production units, the Home Office will bring overseas applicants in line with this system, albeit without moving production and issuance of the biometric permits overseas (which would create a number of technical and logistical problems).

BAL Analysis: To avoid delays, employers sponsoring non-EEA employees for longer than six months should work with their BAL attorney to prepare for the new biometric residence permit procedures, paying special attention to the short-validity travel vignette enabling a foreign applicant to enter the U.K. for purposes of obtaining their permit. Any errors on the vignette must be corrected before travel, and any change to the pick-up location will cause delays and added cost.

In terms of compliance, employers should ideally require employees to collect their permit before starting work, as this will allow them to meet the right-to-work requirements in a single step. If the employee must start work before collecting their permit, such as in an urgent relocation, an employer will be able to conduct a right-to-work check of the 30-day vignette in the employee’s passport and then a second check of the permit when the vignette expires. The new procedure may therefore require a cultural shift – while migrants can still fly into the U.K. and start work the same day in an emergency, it will be better to arrange a timeline where the employee can collect the permit comfortably before starting work.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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