Replacement of Biometric Residence Permits with eVisa system
On 30 October 2023, the UK government announced a new digital system for confirming immigration status [www.gov.uk/guidance/online-immigration-status-evisa]. The new system, known as eVisa, will serve as an online record of your immigration status and permissions in the UK.
What is an eVisa?
The eVisa is your digital record of immigration status in the UK. It outlines the conditions of your permission in the country, such as your right to work. This new system is being developed by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and is set to replace the current Biometric Residence Permits (BRP), Biometric Residence Cards (BRC), passport endorsements, and vignette stickers in passports such as entry clearance or visa vignettes.
Does my visa expire on 31 December 2024?
The Home Office has been planning the move to a digital eVisa system for some time. This is why the expiry date on most Biometric Residence Permits is 31 December 2024.
This expiry date has caused a great deal of worry and confusion in migrant communities as people worry that they have only been granted a short grant of status. The actual expiry date of your immigration status is found in the Home Office letter that confirms a grant of status. These letters should be kept safe!
Are eVisas new?
The concept of eVisas is not new. European nationals and their family members who have been granted permission to stay in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme are not issued any physical proof of their status but instead are awarded obtain digital status.
What do I need to do?
If you’re a migrant living in the UK, you don’t need to do anything just yet. However, you must create a UKVI account before the end of 2024. Throughout 2024, the government will provide updates, advice, and support to help you set up your UKVI account. Law Centre NI will also provide further updates. For more information about eVisas, you can visit the official government website: www.gov.uk/guidance/online-immigration-status-evisa
Concerns and recommendations
While the Law Centre recognises some of the potential benefits of the new eVisa system, we anticipate that a number of migrants will struggle with the digital nature of the eVisa. Migrants who are unable to create a UKVI account, may find themselves locked out of public services, for example, social security, homelessness support and social housing. This is a serious concern.
Issues such as lack of English language skills, digital literacy skills, or inadequate mobile phone credit to manage an account will pose significant challenges as the Law Centre knows well given our experience of assisting migrants navigate the EU Settlement Scheme, Universal Credit and, more recently, the Ukraine Scheme. Concerns about digital status have been highlighted by numerous organisations including the Law Centre, the 3million, the Public Law Project, and indeed parliamentarians have called on government to make provision for physical proof of immigration status where necessary. Earlier this year, the Independent Monitoring Agency sought an assurance from government that the EUSS digital system is “fit for purpose”, whereas parliamentarians have called on government to ensure that migrants can request and obtain physical proof of their status.
Given the difficulties associated with digital status that have been extensively documented, the Law Centre urges the Executive Office and other NI government departments and agencies including Department for Communities and NI Housing Executive (NIHE) to develop measures to:
- help migrants create and maintain their UKVI accounts in NI;
- ensure that migrants in NI who are unable/do not create UKVI accounts by the deadline are not cut off from essential services.