If you apply for a Tier 4 (General) visa extension within the UK, then your visa will not be issued in the form of a sticker in your passport. Instead it will take the form of a separate card called a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
To create the BRP, the Home Office collects fingerprints, a facial image and your signature, otherwise known as your 'biometrics’.
Taking an image of a person’s face and fingerprints and then locking them to that person’s details on a national register provides a very safe and secure way of identifying that person and helps to combat illegal working and reduce illegal immigration to the UK. The card provides a convenient, secure and widely accepted way for any foreign national to prove their immigration status.
It is the shape of a credit card and shows the cardholder’s photo on the front, together with personal details and information about their immigration status. It shows whether the cardholder is allowed to do any work and if they are required to register with the police. The card includes a microchip which contains two of the cardholder’s fingerprints, their signature and the photo on the front is a digital photo.
The BRP does not need to be carried at all times and should really be kept in a safe place (such as with your passport). The card needs to be produced for specified immigration purposes such as returning to the UK from travelling abroad.
Your BRP will be valid for the duration of your visa, or for a maximum of 10 years.
The way the process works with postal applications is that the Home Office wait until they have processed the fee for the extension application before writing to ask you (and your dependants) to attend one of the designated Post Offices to give fingerprints and have a facial image taken. You can find a list of relevant branches on the Post Office website. There is currently one Post Office in Cardiff at 45 – 46 Queens Arcade CF10 2BY.
The Home Office will send you a letter asking you to submit your biometrics.You need to drop-in to a Post Office within 15 days of the date of this letter- you do not need to book an appointment with the Post Office. You will need to take the Home Office letter and a £19.20 administration fee (payable by cash, credit/debit card) with you. Failure to submit your biometrics in time could result in you not being able to stay in the UK. For this reason, it is sensible not to move address while you are waiting for an extension application to be processed and your Home Office biometric letter to arrive. You will have to prioritise attending the appointment over everything else, however important those things are.
Your visa application documents are returned from the Home Office separately from your BRP and with applications made via the University, all your documents and BRP will be returned to you together from IISA (you will be notified by email that they are ready for collection).
Remember that you do not have your visa extension until you have the card. Do not make any arrangements to travel until you have the card, as you do not know how long it will take. Normally you should receive your BRP within 4-8 weeks of attending your biometric appointment.
Once your BRP arrives you will need to confirm your address details to the Home Office online. There will be a letter with your BRP which explains how you do this. You MUST remember to do this even if your address has not changed since you made your application.
If you are going to make your extension application in person, you will have your fingerprints and photo taken during the appointment at the Public Enquiry Office. You will not be given your student extension (the BRP) on the day of the appointment, but will have to wait for it to be sent to you by post later- normally within 10 working days.
Remember that you do not have your visa extension until you have the card. Do not make any arrangements to travel until you have the BRP.
If you have a BRP and you leave the UK and want to re-enter, you are required to show it at the border (together with your national passport) to confirm your right to enter the UK.
Anyone holding a BRP is required to notify the Home Office of changes to the personal data it holds. The personal details which must be kept up to date include: name, address, nationality, course of study and gender. The Home Office have produced a leaflet that outlines what to do in each of these cases and is found on the Home Office website.
Failure to update your details can result in a £1000 fine and/or a shortening of your visa.
If you lose your BRP then you must report this to the Home Office and then apply for a replacement card. Information regarding this can be found on the Home Office website.
A £1000 will apply if cardholders fail to report their cards lost or stolen, and any leave to remain may be shortened.
Further information about the cards, including pictures of they look like, is available on the “Home Office website“http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/residency/brp-information-leaflet.pdf.