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eVisa System: Online Immigration Status Guidance

As we have seen in recent years, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) have developed and are implementing a digital immigration system. In summary, this means replacing physical documents with an online record of a migrant’s immigration status.  This is known as an eVisa. 

From 1 January 2020, applicants who were granted five years limited leave to remain started to receive Biometric Residence Permits endorsed with an expiry date of 31 December 2024.  Initially, this was due to requirements introduced by the European Union to incorporate next generation encryption technology. As this could not be fulfilled they contained a validity date of no later than 31 December 2024. In January 2021, the EU restrictions on format were lifted and the system moved to issuing a new UK format of BRP.  However, the Home Office continued after this date with plans to digitalise the system.

Thereafter, in line with plans to digitalise the system the Home Office continued to short date all BRPs to no later than the end of 2024, thus meaning most applicants now receive a BRP which expires sooner than their leave expires.   

In the interim, and in accordance with plans to digitalise immigration status information, the Home Office has made immigration status information available via the online ‘view and prove your immigration status’ service on gov.uk.  It is hoped that all individuals will have online access to their immigration status information by the end of 2024.  

We examined all of these developments in our earlier post: Why Does My BRP Expire on 31 December 2024?

New Online Immigration Status eVisa Guidance – 30 October 2023

On 30 October 2023, the new Online immigration status (eVisa) guidance was published. 

This outlines further developments and steps in the plan to move to online records as opposed to physical documents.

What Is Being Replaced?

The physical documents UKVI are replacing with an eVisa are as follows:

eVisa – What Is It?

The eVisa is an online record of your immigration status and the conditions of your permission to enter or stay in the UK. The eVisa will be used to travel to the UK and eventually you will not be required to carry a physical document.  It is important to note that until you have an eVisa you will need to continue to carry your physical document as evidence of your status.

The published guidance records the following apparent benefits of eVisas:

  • they are secure and cannot be lost, stolen or tampered with, unlike a physical document
  • you will not need to wait for, or collect, a physical document after your application is decided – you might still need to provide biometric information in person, and we will tell you if you need to do this
  • it will be quicker and easier to prove your status at the UK border

Does This New Digital System Affect My Status?

Many will be concerned about their current immigration status and the impact the new digital system may have.  The guidance confirms:

Updating your physical document to an eVisa does not affect your immigration status or the conditions of your permission to enter or stay in the UK.

What is a UKVI Account and Why Do I Need One?

You will register for a UKVI account to access the view and prove service and see your eVisa.  There is no charge to register for a UKVI account. When you have an account, you will then be able to view and share relevant information about your status and any conditions attached securely with third parties, such as employers or landlords.

You can do this by generating a share code in the view and prove service.  The  share code will give others time-limited access to your immigration status information.  Fortunately, there is no need to remember a single unique code to be able to prove your status as you can get a share code whenever you need one.  Some information about your immigration status may automatically be shared with some government departments and other public authorities.  This is for the purpose of convenience. 

It is important to remember that you will be required to  keep your passport details up to date in your UKVI account and inform UKVI of any changes. This should hopefully mean that your immigration status can be easily identified and confirmed at the UK border. If you are waiting for your account to be updated and have not yet received confirmation the following guidance applies:

If you’ve told us you have a new passport and you’re still waiting for confirmation that your UKVI account has been updated, you should also carry your old document with you, if possible, to avoid unnecessary delays at the border.

What Action Do I Need to Take Now?

If you currently have permission to stay in the UK and have a physical document including a BRP or BRC to prove your immigration status, there is no action to take at this time.

The newly issued guidance confirms that throughout 2024, updates will be provided regarding when you need to register for a UKVI account, what you need to do and any other steps to take.    

If you are currently required to make a new application or you want to make a new application for permission to stay in the UK, this does not impact upon your ability to do so. Information and guidance will be provided during your application process if you need to create a UKVI account.

If you have permission to stay in the UK, once you’ve completed your UKVI account registration you’ll be able to see your eVisa in the view and prove service.

The Future

There have been many arguments advanced in favour of digital status, including efficiency, convenience, security and reduction of errors. 

UKVI launched a digital system in 2018 to coincide with those holding permission under the EU Settlement Scheme.  There were reported difficulties at this time by many individuals and through organisations and watchdogs. Many of the difficulties faced by individuals were reported in the media. 

Of course, further difficulties are likely to be experienced by those unable to create an account and therefore rendered unable to prove their status.  Concerns have been raised about those individuals who are limited in accessing the system by not having the necessary English language skills, computer literacy and access to the needed technology.  Many organisations and watchdogs continue to call upon the government to make allowances for the use of physical proof of immigration status.  If not, individuals are forced into a position where they are unable to prove their status with the significant inevitable consequences.

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance regarding any aspect of UK immigration law, contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

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