25/11/2008

First National Identity Cards Issued

The first ID cards for foreign nationals are to be issued by the Home Office, from today.

Students, and the husbands, wives and partners of permanent residents in the UK who apply for permission to extend their stay, are eligible for the first cards under the plans.

Within three years all new foreign workers will be issued with cards and ministers expect 90% coverage by 2014.

Applicants' facial image and fingerprints are taken to securely lock them to one identity and help businesses crack down on illegal working. Their name, date of birth, nationality and the person's right to be in the UK will also be detailed on the card.
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Identity cards will be mandatory for all foreign nationals and provide a simple secure means of proving a foreign national's right to work to businesses. Companies will have to keep records of the migrants they have sponsored - including their contact details and a copy of their identity card.

Starting in Croydon, the first identity cards will be issued to people making applications to remain in the UK as a student or based on marriage.

Ministers predict between 50,000 and 60,000 cards will be issued by the end of March.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "In time identity cards for foreign nationals will replace paper documents and give employers a safe and secure way of checking a migrant's right to work and study in the UK."

However, shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: "This is a gimmick but it's a gimmick with a price. While these 'ID cards' won't stop illegal immigration or terrorism, they will land the taxpayer with a multi-million pound bill.

"At a time of economic hardship this is the last thing that the taxpayer needs."

(JM)

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