News & Insights

When do Visa Applicants not need to attend a Biometric Appointment?

Ordinarily, visa applicants need to attend a visa application centre to have their biometric data taken – but the Home Office has published new guidance outlining additional circumstances in which this will not be necessary.

For most people applying for a visa to come to the UK, they will need to provide their biometric data, being their fingerprints and photograph, by attending a visa application centre in their home country. Fees for an appointment vary but are usually less than £200 in the application centre’s local currency. Application centres will sometimes offer additional services, such as the return of documents by courier service.

Providing biometrics at an application centre will not be a problem for most applicants. However, the availability of appointments can sometimes be limited, and the Home Office will not begin processing a visa application until biometric information has been submitted.

Additionally, while you can ordinarily upload most supporting documents to the application centre’s online booking portal, you must always provide your original passport at your appointment, which the application centre will hold onto until the application has been processed – and, unless you pay extra for a courier service, you will then need to collect this from the application centre yourself.

There are therefore a few inconvenient elements to attending a biometric appointment in-person – hence the popularity of the UK Immigration ID Check app. This mobile phone app, available on the Google Play and App stores, allows certain visa applicants to submit their biometric information and confirm the veracity of their identity documents digitally, without having to attend an application centre.

However, this option is primarily only available to applicants with a biometric passport from an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, or to in-country applicants on certain routes, who can use the app to scan their biometric residence permit.

In certain, rare circumstances, individuals looking to apply for a visa to the UK may be putting themselves in danger if they try to travel to a visa application centre – whether because their country of residence is generally dangerous due to war, civil unrest, or natural disasters, or because they themselves are at particular risk of harm due to their politics, ethnicity, or sexuality. The Home Office has published new guidance for caseworkers dealing with applications from such individuals to defer or even entirely waive the biometrics requirements.

The guidance sets out certain steps that applicants must first take to try and resolve any difficulties in travelling to an application centre; these include delaying their journey, booking an appointment at an alternative application centre, and paying for premium services such as priority. Applicants who request a delay or waiver of the biometrics requirements must clearly set out their reasons for the request and provide supporting evidence.

The Home Office has confirmed that such a request should only be approved in exceptional circumstances. To have a chance of successfully applying to defer or waive the biometrics requirements, the applicant must:

  • Satisfy the decision maker about their identity to a reasonable degree of certainty before coming to the UK.
  • Provide evidence that they need to make an urgent journey to a visa application centre that would be particularly unsafe for them based on the current situation within the area they are located and along the route they would need to travel, and that they cannot delay their journey or use alternative routes.
  • Demonstrate that their circumstances are so compelling as to make them exceptional – this goes beyond simply joining relatives who are living in the UK.
  • Explain why they cannot attend a visa appointment centre to provide their biometric data yet are able to travel to the UK.

Given the number of hurdles that an applicant must clear to waive the biometric requirements, it remains likely that a biometric appointment will be required in the vast majority of visa cases where the ID check app cannot be used.If you would like assistance with making a visa application, please get in touch at [email protected]