AFF Foreign & Commonwealth Specialist Katherine Houlston explains biometric residence permits (BRPs)

What is a biometric residence permit?

A biometric residence permit (BRP) is a document providing confirmation of your identity and proof of your right to stay, work, study and access public services in the UK. Residence permits for European Union members are currently still optional.

I have a visa in my passport. Do I need a BRP?

If you came to the UK before July 2015 you would have been issued a visa in your passport. If the visa is still valid or if you have Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE) or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) then you are not required to apply for a BRP. Those with limited leave will receive a BRP when they apply for ILR. Those with ILE may find it easier to apply for a BRP as many people don’t understand what ILE is.

My employer has told me I need a BRP to work, is this right?

No. If you have a valid visa in your passport then this alone is evidence of your right to work. Unfortunately, the guidance issued to employers mostly talks about BRPs; the information about visas is hidden at the back, but it clearly states that “visas granting permission to come or remain in the UK will still demonstrate a right to work while they remain valid”.

What if my passport has expired?

You will most likely need to apply for a BRP as the guidance states that the visa needs to be in a current passport.

How do I apply?

You can apply for a BRP on form NTL at a cost of £308 if you have ILE.

What if we are living overseas? 

Since July 2015, all those applying for a UK settlement visa are issued with a one-month visa.

You are required to travel to the UK within that time and will need to collect your BRP from your nominated post office within ten days of arrival.

F&C families on overseas assignments have been disadvantaged by this new policy, as UKVI has not authorised any BFPOs to be used for collection and will not currently allow anyone else to collect the BRP from the UK on their behalf.

So if you have had to apply for a new visa because your current one is expiring but you are not being posted back to the UK, then you have two options:

  • Travel to the UK at your own expense to collect the BRP. The cost of this is not refunded.
  • Allow the first 30-day visa to expire and apply for a new one when you wish to travel to the UK or are being posted back. This will cost £189 per person.

What is AFF doing about it?

We have been working on this issue with Army HQ and the Home Office since last year. The Home Office is currently exploring the option of designating BFPO addresses to enable collection of BRPs overseas. Unfortunately, this is not likely to be resolved anytime soon.

For guidance about BRPs and details of how to contact AFF’s F&C team, visit

Case study

Liesl Bossert (pictured) recently had to travel back to the UK to collect her BRP; she had originally tried to nominate her brother to collect it but was told this wouldn’t be possible.

“I think there is a fair way to go with regards to BRPs for Army spouses living abroad.

“It turns out I am not able to claim my trip back, and so I now cannot afford to apply for citizenship, due to having used part of the funds,” she said.

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