Date updated: Wednesday 31st January 2024

The Home Office is undergoing a period of “digitalisation” where visa processes are increasingly moving online and onto apps to improve user experience. Digitalisation also involves changes to the way migrants prove their status in the UK, moving from physical documents to a digital immigration status (an e-visa). However, with increased focus on immigration compliance and enforcement planned for 2024 (see ‘Avoid UK right-to-work penalties: New rise in non-compliance fines’), there are concerns that document changes are not being adequately communicated to affected employers and individuals.

What is changing?

Visas that show UK immigration status and prove right-to-work have not been stamped into individuals’ passports for some time. Since 2008, credit-card sized Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) including a photograph and an expiry date have been used as a more secure proof of status. However, under Home Office digitalisation plans, BRPs are now being phased out and replaced by a fully digital system of e-visas and online checks.  

Why is 31 December 2024 relevant?

Employers should be aware that all Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) have been issued with a standard expiry date of 31 December 2024, even though the individual’s visa may be valid after that date. The correct visa expiry date is currently stated on the Home Office visa approval letter and can be proven through an online check only. 

As BRPs will no longer be in use after 31 December 2024, a visa-holder’s passport must be actively linked to a UKVI account to allow travel after that date. The Home Office plans to invite affected graduates and sponsored workers to create an account from March/April 2024, and publish further guidance on how to replace BRPs for other visa routes in summer 2024. This timetable is tight, given the number of individuals the Home Office will need to notify, the lack of contact details for those with long-term immigration status in the UK, and the implications for individuals being unable to prove their right to work or rent, or travel after the deadline. The experience of the European Settlement Scheme, which was run via an entirely digital process, was that a physical back-up to prove immigration status would protect individuals, particularly children.

Can employers rely on a BRP expiry date?

No. An individual’s visa expiry date is likely to be different to the date given on the BRP (31 December 2024). BRPs must not be used to establish an employee’s right to work. The employee should generate a share code to allow the employer to view and prove their right-to-work in the UK, which, depending on their underlying status, may or not be time-limited or restricted in terms of the type of work permitted.

Can employers rely on an online check expiry date?

Yes. The e-visa is the intended way to prove immigration status and will give a date the individual is able to work until. Employers can rely on an online check even though a BRP has an earlier “expiry date” of 31 December 2024. If an individual has indefinite leave to remain in the UK (perhaps because they have completed a five year period of residence as a skilled worker or dependant, or have been granted refugee status), the online check should say “They can work in any job. There is no limit on how long they can stay in the UK.” and will not give an expiry date.

What steps can individuals take?

BRP holders and those with physical immigration documents will have to take active steps before 31 December 2024 to create a UKVI account to prove their status online and be able to travel. Those that were granted indefinite leave in the UK some time ago have the option of making a free no-time-limit application to obtain a BRP and on online account now to avoid difficulty in travel after 2024. Those with a visa in an old passport have the option of making a transfer of conditions application. Please contact the Immigration Team for private client consultations and support.

What steps can employers take?

Employers should have records of all employees with time-limited permission or indefinite leave to remain and should consider putting impacted employees on notice to look out for Home Office communications.  

We highly recommend undertaking an audit to alert you to any potential right-to-work compliance issues or training needs within your organisation. Please contact the Immigration Team for cost information.

Find out more about Home Office guidance on e-visas.