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Enrolling your biometric information - postal and online applications

Biometric information is data about you derived from unique physical characteristics you possess. Good examples of biometric data include your fingerprint, facial features, or even an ‘iris scan’ of your eye. Biometric data is useful to distinguish you for identification purposes.

Modern passports and other identification documentation can contain biometric information on a small computer chip inserted into the document itself. This chip can then be read when you travel abroad, and helps immigration officials in your country of arrival to ensure your documentation is valid.

In the UK, the UK Border Agency uses biometric data in some of the documents it issues for foreign nationals wishing to the come to the UK. The biometric information is stored when you apply for a visa or for permission to stay in the UK. For these purposes, the UK will usually ask for a full set of fingerprints (all fingers and both thumbs), and a photograph of your face.

How do I enrol my biometric data if I apply by post or online?

If you are already in the UK and are seeking to extend your visa or to stay longer in the UK, and you wish to apply online or by post, then you can provide your biometric information at one of the Post Offices offering this service.

If you make your application in person to an enquiry office then you will be able to provide your biometric information on the same day at the enquiry office.

List of UKBA public enquiry offices

If you are applying from abroad then the same process applies, but this will happen at a visa application centre in your country of application. The UK has visa application centres around the world, often located in consulate or embassy locations.

Find your nearest visa application office abroad

How is my biometric data collected?

The process for collection of biometric data is very straightforward. The visa application centre or Post Office will ask you to place your fingers on a glass screen to be scanned. Fingerprint scanning is a digital technique and no longer requires ink and paper.

You will then be asked to stand in front of a digital camera to have your photograph taken. The whole process takes less than five minutes.

If you have no fingers or hands to provide fingerprints, then a record of this will be taken. It is best to notify the application centre in advance if this is the case.

How long will it take to obtain my biometric residence permit?

If you applied by post or online then the biometric residence permit is sent separately from the parcel containing your returned documents. There is no fixed time for delivery, and UKBA therefore advises you against arranging urgent travel.

What if my biometric residence permit is lost or stolen?

By law you must report your biometric residence permit lost or stolen whether inside or outside the UK. This is best done by emailing:

You must include your full name, date of birth, nationality and passport number in your email, along with details of your biometric residence permit reference number, your contact details and details of when and how the permit was lost or stolen. Your biometric residence permit will then be cancelled. 

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