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Do I need a biometric residence permit?

This section explains whether you will need a biometric residence permit (formerly known as an identity card for foreign nationals) during your stay in the UK. It also tells you how to apply for a permit, and lists your responsibilities as a permit holder.

Depending on your immigration category, you may need to apply for a biometric residence permit if you apply for permission to extend your stay in the UK. The categories who must currently apply for a permit if they want to extend their stay are listed at the bottom of this page.

You cannot apply for a biometric residence permit unless you are applying to extend your stay in one of the categories listed at the bottom of this page.

When you apply to extend your stay in the UK, the application form will tell you whether you must also apply for a biometric residence permit. You will use this form to apply to extend your stay and to apply for a biometric residence permit. You will also need to enrol your biometric information (fingerprints and facial photograph) with us.

For more information about your responsibilities as a holder of a biometric residence permit, see the Permit holders' responsibilities page.

More information

  • Who needs to apply for a biometric residence permit?

    You do need to apply for a biometric residence permit if you are currently in the UK and you want to extend your temporary permission to stay here in one of the following immigration categories:

    • Tier 2 (General) of the points-based system
    • Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) of the points-based system
    • Tier 2 (Sportsperson) of the points-based system
    • Tier 2 (Minister of religion) of the points-based system
    • Tier 4 (General) of the points-based system, including postgraduate doctors and dentists
    • Tier 4 (Child) of the points-based system
    • representative of an overseas business
    • domestic worker in a private household
    • sole representative of an overseas firm
    • UK ancestry
    • academic visitor (if you are applying to extend your stay in the UK to more than six months)
    • visitor for private medical treatment
    • husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried partner or same-sex partner of a British citizen or a person who has settled in the UK
    • dependant of a main applicant in a category that requires a biometric residence permit

    Also, you must apply for a biometric residence permit if you use form TOC to request a transfer of your temporary permission to stay in the UK from an old passport or similar document.

    You do not need to apply for a biometric residence permit if you are:

    • a foreign national applying to extend your stay in an immigration category not listed above - instead you will receive a new vignette (sticker) in your passport; or
    • a foreign national applying for permission to settle in the UK; or
    • a national of a country in the European Economic Area (including the UK) or Switzerland.
  • How do I enrol my biometric information and apply for a biometric residence permit from inside the UK?

    If you make your application to extend your stay in the UK by post, we will send you a letter after we have received your application. The letter will tell you how to book an appointment to enrol your biometric information at one of our biometric enrolment centres. Alternatively, you may be able to enrol your biometric information without booking an appointment, for an additional fee (payable to Post Office Ltd), at a limited number of Crown post offices. The letter will tell you whether there is a participating post office near you.

    If you make your application in person at one of our public enquiry offices, you can enrol your biometric information at the same time. You must book an appointment to make your application in person.

  • What happens when I enrol my biometric information?

    Enrolling your biometric information is a quick and clean process. We take a digital photograph of your face, then you put your fingers on a glass screen to be scanned - there is no ink or mess.

    The process takes less than five minutes (although the appointment will be for approximately half an hour), and it will not delay the decision on your application.

    We are extremely aware of the need to protect applicants' dignity, privacy and modesty. There will be special arrangements for female applicants where needed.

  • When will I get my biometric residence permit?

    If you apply by post, we will post your permit to you by secure delivery, separately from the decision about your application and the return of your documents.

    If you apply at a public enquiry office, we will post your permit to you by secure delivery after your appointment. Identity cards cannot be issued on the same day as your appointment.

    We advise you not to book any non-urgent travel before you have received your permit.

  • What must I do when I receive my biometric residence permit?

    You must check your permit carefully when you receive it, to ensure that all the details on it are correct. If you find a mistake, you must phone us on 0300 123 2412 within 10 working days of receiving the permit - otherwise you may be charged for a replacement and will need to apply again.

    We advise you to make a photocopy of the front and back of your permit, in case it is lost or stolen. If you want to make another application in the future, you will need to send your permit to the UK Border Agency, so you may want to retain a copy for your records.

  • What should I do if my biometric residence permit is not delivered?

    If you have not received your permit 10 working days after the date on your letter from us extending your permission to stay in the UK, you should phone us on 0300 123 2412. You cannot ask about undelivered permits in person at our public enquiry offices or biometric enrolment centres.
  • How do I use my biometric residence permit?

    Your biometric residence permit is evidence of your permission to stay in the UK, and shows the conditions of your stay. It enables you to confirm your identity and your rights to study and/or work here, and to access public services.

    You must show the permit to your employer or approved education provider before you start to work or study.

    You must take your permit with you if you go abroad while you have permission to stay in the UK. You may need to show the permit to an immigration officer at the border when you leave the UK. You will also need to show it as well as your valid national passport or travel document before you begin your return journey, and again when you re-enter the UK. The permit proves that you are allowed to return to the UK, but it cannot be used instead of a passport or travel document.