What is the change? The U.K. Home Office has launched a pilot program in which Tier 2 (General) foreign workers will automatically have their passports and/or biometric residence permits (BRPs) returned to them seven to 10 days after applying for permanent residence.

What does the change mean? Tier 2 (General) foreign workers who have five continuous years of residence in the U.K. will be able to use their passports for travel and other purposes while their applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain (permanent residency) are processed.

  • Implementation timeframe: A pilot program was launched May 6, 2014.
  • Visas/permits affected: Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
  • Who is affected: Tier 2 (General) foreign workers applying for ILR.
  • Impact on processing times: None.

Background: Currently, those applying for ILR under Tier 2 (General) of the Points-Based System in the U.K. must submit their original passports and biometric residence permits (BRP) to the Home Office. If applying by post, their documents are not returned until the completion of the processes, which can take up to six months. Beginning May 6, 2014, applicants will automatically receive these documents back within seven to 10 days of filing their applications and before a decision has been made on their applications.

The passport-return service launched as a pilot in July of last year for applicants in the Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer (ICT) visa route. Feedback was positive and encouraged the U.K. Home office to expand it to other visa categories. Passports and BRPs will be returned automatically to all postal applicants – it is no longer necessary to specifically request their return.

Crucially, having both passport and BRP will allow applicants to travel while their ILR applications are pending. If the Tier 2 (General) visa has expired, a Tier 2 migrant should be able to rely on the fact that the ILR application is outstanding with the U.K. Home Office when seeking entry to the U.K.

BAL Analysis: The passport-return service is a customer-focused solution intended to minimize the impact of lengthy U.K. Home Office processing times for postal ILR applications. The expansion of the service to include Tier 2 (General) applicants, as well as Tier 2 (ICT) applicants, is a positive development. However, from a practical perspective, BAL continues to recommend that ILR applications be submitted on the priority service to ensure the fastest processing times and minimal disruption to work and ability to travel.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact

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