Going digital: change to online e-visas to prove immigration status

Legal Updates

On the day of writing this blog, we now know that a General Election will be held on the 4th July. We will update with any further information about whether the switch to digital visas will be affected when we know more.

In February 2024 we published a legal update about Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) cards. BRP cards show proof of your immigration status, and your rights to work and claim benefits. The blog explained how there have been many problems with BRP cards. 

BRP cards which have been issued recently have an expiry date of 31 December 2024. After this date, no new BRP cards will be issued. 

This is because the Home Office is moving to an online visa system. This blog explains what we know so far about this plan. 

What are the current plans? 

On the 31st December 2024, BRP cards will be abolished and there will be a change to digital, online visas. 

The information that the Home Office has given is here, including how to set up an online visa account, which you will need in order to access your information.

What does this mean? 

Just because your BRP card expires on the 31 December 2024, this does not necessarily mean that your leave (or visa) expires at that time. 

It means you will have to prove your identity digitally (online) after that. 

It is a good idea to check when your current grant of leave expires so that you can be prepared for your application when it comes. 

How will I be able to prove my status online? 

In order to access your e-visa and prove your immigration status, you will first need to make a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) account. Your account will be linked to a physical document, such as a passport or ID card. 

In order to create a UKVI account, you will need: 

  • Your date of birth
  • Your BRP number
  • Your passport (if you do not have a BRP)
  • Access to an email address and phone number
  • Access to a smartphone

The Home Office will email people with a link to create a UKVI account. You need to use this link to create your account. 

What are the potential problems?

This is not a phased or gradual change to the UK visa system. It is sudden, and for that reason it has been said that it will create a ‘cliff edge’ for migrants to make sure they switch to digital visas.

It has been pointed out that this change to a digital system risks a repeat of the Windrush scandal, in which many people with valid right to live and work in the UK were unable to prove their immigration status. 

The government has been trialling the new system with a small group of people, and this article has reported a few problems with the trial. For example, as many people use their solicitors email addresses for Home Office correspondence, emails inviting people to create a UKVI account have been lost, or not forwarded to the correct people. 

It is likely that people with limited access to the internet will struggle to access an online account, and the government has not put measures in place to address this.

The government has also announced a funding opportunity for organisations who can support people in the transition to digital status. This shows that the Home Office is clearly aware of the many potential challenges in implementing this plan so quickly and without proper support. 

We will continue to keep this blog updated when we have more information about this change.

For now, the advice is to look out for any correspondence from the Home Office about creating a UKVI account. 

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