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How to avoid a right to work check headache when BRPs are phased out

27 November 2023

The Home Office intends to phase out biometric residence permits and other physical immigration documents from 1 January 2025. Although details of the process are still awaited, employers should take the opportunity now to review the volume of repeat right to work checks are due on 31 December 2024 and aim to minimise bottlenecks with processing these.

Currently, many biometric residence permits (BRPs) and biometric residence cards (BRCs) are due to expire on 31 December 2024, even where the holder’s immigration permission expires after this, or where they are settled and have no expiry date for their permission.

The reason for this is historical – when the UK was still part of the EU, there was a requirement to upgrade the encryption technology in these documents by the end of 2024. Initially, the expectation was that current generation BRPs and BRCs would be replaced with documents containing the new technology. Post-Brexit however, the Government has decided to move away from issuing physical immigration documents altogether.

What is the Home Office’s plan for phasing out physical immigration documents?

The Home Office intends to move towards digital-only recognition of immigration status, using an electronic visa (eVisa) system.

eVisas will replace the following physical immigration documents:

  • BRPs – these are currently held by some people with limited immigration permission longer than six months, or who are settled in the UK;
  • Biometric residence cards (BRCs) – these are currently held by some EU Settlement Scheme participants;
  • Vignette stickers in passports – these are used for visitor visas for visa nationals, and as an initial travel facility for some individuals who have applied to come to the UK from abroad and who have not yet received their BRP or BRC; and
  • Stamped endorsements in passports – these are sometimes held by people who settled in the UK a long time ago, or who have had short-term immigration permission (for six months or less) endorsed at the border.

During 2024, holders of these physical documents will need to register for a UKVI account so that they can access an eVisa version of their immigration permission. The holder’s immigration status and immigration conditions will be unaffected by registering for the UKVI account.

The main function of the account is to enable access to the Home Office’s view and prove service. An individual can use this service to issue a share code to third parties needing to check their status and conditions, e.g.:

  • An employer as part of a right to work check;
  • A landlord in England as part of a right to rent check; and
  • Other third parties such as educational institutions.

Valid physical documents should still be used for travel to the UK for the time-being, however an eVisa, along with the individual’s passport, will be needed to travel to the UK at some point in the future. To avoid potential travel disruption at that stage, it will be important to ensure the UKVI account is set up and has the holder’s current passport details registered to it.

Specific information on the process for applying for a UKVI account has not yet been published, however a new webpage has been added to GOV.UK. Businesses and individuals can subscribe to receive emails when the page is updated.

How does the expiry of BRPs and BRCs impact right to work checking processes?

Before 6 April 2022, it was possible for BRP and BRC holders to prove their right to work using their physical document, rather than being required to use the Home Office’s online right to work check system.

Where an individual opted to do this, the expiry of their BRP or BRC will have been listed as 31 December 2024, unless their immigration permission was due to expire before this date.

For individuals who are settled in the UK, no repeat right to work check will be required. However, for individuals with limited immigration permission, a repeat right to work check must be carried out before the expiry of the document they used to prove their right to work, rather than before the expiry of the person’s immigration permission.

This means some employers may have a high volume of repeat right to work checks due on 31 December 2024.

How can employers minimise the impact of this change on repeat right to work checks?

It is not yet known when employers will be required to use the view and prove system only. This will depend on when the existing online right to work checking system for BRP and BRC holders is decommissioned, and when manual right to work checks will be discontinued for non-British or Irish individuals with existing immigration permission or exemption from immigration control.

The switchover process to UKVI accounts may not happen smoothly. It is also likely that Home Office systems will experience a high traffic load immediately in the lead up to the end of 2024. This combination of factors may place pressure on HR teams processing repeat checks late next year.

We would suggest that employers consider taking the following actions to minimise administrative impact:

  • Identify which workers’ repeat right to work check is due on 31 December 2024;
  • Implement a phased process of asking (but not requiring) affected individuals to complete an early repeat check using the online right to work check process – this will smooth the administrative burden for the business and enable the next repeat check to be aligned to the expiry of individuals’ existing immigration permission; and
  • Implement a process for prompting workers to obtain a UKVI account on a timely basis ahead of their next repeat right to work check.

We shall provide updates on the process of registering for a UKVI account as further information is released by the Home Office.

We are covering the phasing out of physical immigration documents our next ‘What’s happening in immigration law’ session on 7 December. For more information and sign-up details, click here. If you are an employer with queries about this topic, you can also get in touch with a member of our Immigration Team.

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