Wed | Apr 25, 2018

Immigration Corner: What's the deal with biometrics?

Published:Tuesday | April 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mr Bassie,

I am told that there are to be changes to biometric collection categories with respect to United Kingdom visas and immigration. I am hoping that you can provide me with some more information as I plan to apply for my British citizenship in the near future.

- LR


Dear LR,

There have been some changes, and new rules for how fingerprints, facial images and biometric information are managed have come into effect as of April 6, 2015.

The changes are affecting the way in which biometric information, including fingerprints and facial images, are being managed from April 6, 2015. The new rules will mean that anyone who is registering or naturalising as a British citizen will need to provide his/her biometrics as part of their application. It should also be noted non-European Economic Area (EEA)EEA nationals applying for a residence card, derivative residence card or permanent residence card will also need to submit their biometrics in the same way.

The changes will help align existing legislation and tighten up checks for those applying to stay in the United Kingdom. It will also make it easier to verify people's identities, for individuals to prove their status in the United Kingdom, and for the Home Office to identify those who do not have the right to be in the United Kingdom.

An applicant who is applying in the United Kingdom will need to attend a post office so that his/her biometrics can be taken. The instructions pertaining to this will be set out in that person's enrolment letter that he/she will receive after the application is made.

Any person who is applying from overseas to become British citizens will be required to enrol their biometrics at a biometric enrolment centre, such as a visa application centre (VAC). Alternatively, if that person is in the United Kingdom, he/she can enrol his/her biometrics at a United Kingdom post office.

If an applicant is successful, he/she will receive a residence card (RC) in a new biometric format. The cards are similar in design to the biometric residence permit (BRP). They are the size of a credit card, and show a person's personal information such as name, date of birth and nationality, status in the United Kingdom and a photograph.

Please note: the RC is different to a BRP, which is issued to certain non-EEA nationals who are subject to immigration control. RCs are issued to non-EEA nationals who have a right of residence in the United Kingdom under EU law.

It should be noted that fingerprint information will normally be retained for up to 10 years. However, where a person is considered to pose a threat to the United Kingdom or for those who are permanently settled in the United Kingdom, information will be retained for immigration or nationality purposes.

Once an individual becomes a British citizen their biometric information will be deleted, but photographs will be retained until they obtain their first British passport.

- John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a justice of the peace, a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (UK).