Foreign nationals can now apply for identity cards after the immigration point system was activated this week.
In a Government bid to crack down on foreign migrants working illegally the cards will have a facial image and fingerprint recorded so that the holder is locked into a single identity.
Identity cards will be mandatory for all foreign nationals providing an easy and secure way to prove a foreign migrants right to work in the UK.
The National Identity Scheme will see the first applicants having to apply for cards from 25 November, starting with students applying for Further Leave to Remain (FLR) or varying their leave and those seeking leave to remain on the basis of marriage.
The cards will replace the passport visa stamp (vignette) and students will need to carry the card, along with their passport (the card is not a travel document) with them when travelling abroad to avoid being refused re-entry to the UK.
Affected migrants will need to report to one of six UK Border Agency centres to give the biometric data, including electronic finger printing, needed to produce the card.
Employers and educational institutions that sponsor migrants will need to keep records of their identity card and contact details.
The first ID cards will be issued to those making applications to extend their stay as a student or a spouse and will initially start in Croydon.
Julian Gravatt, Association of Colleges Director of Funding and Development, said:
“Issuing ID cards to overseas students should assist in the reduction of identity fraud.
“Colleges welcome any measure which facilitates the recruitment of genuine students to study in the UK and the economic benefits this brings.”
Ninety per cent of all foreign nationals will have an ID card by 2014/15 and within the next three years all those extending their stay in the UK will be issued with one.
ID cards will eventually be rolled out to the entire population starting with a voluntary take up scheme in 2011/12.
Tier 2 and 5 of points based system will go live on Thursday 27 November, and Tier 4, for students, will start at the end of March 2009.
Home secretary Jacqui Smith said:UK.
“The first identity cards for foreign nationals along with the launch of tiers two and five of the points system demonstrate our commitment to preventing immigration abuse and protecting the prosperity of the
“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.”
New identity card enrolment centres will be established in Cardiff, Glasgow, Northern Ireland, Sheffield, Solihull and Liverpool over the next three weeks.
ID cards are expected to protect against identity fraud, illegal working, immigration terrorism and crime.
Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve described the move as a “gimmick with a price”.
“We support biometric visas for foreign nationals. But these ‘ID cards’ won’t stop illegal immigration or terrorism, and they will land the taxpayer with a multi-billion pound bill. At a time of economic hardship this is the last thing taxpayer needs.”
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Chris Huhne went further, warning the ID cards would come to be seen as a “laminated poll tax”.
“This hugely expensive scheme will have no impact on crime, terrorism, illegal immigration or illegal working as foreign nationals already have passports with visas. This intrusion on British liberty is completely unnecessary,” he said.
“Foreign nationals, who cannot vote, are perfect guinea pigs for a government wanting to test a deeply unpopular and unworkable policy.”
The Government hope the Identity Card scheme will cut down on the estimated half a million illegal immigrants already in the UK.
Other measures include automatic civil penalties for employers of up to £10,000 per illegal worker.
Employers will be forced to share the responsibility with the Government for ensuring that a foreign national has the right to work in the UK.
Employers needing check the validity of a card can call the UKBA ‘verification helpline’ on 0300 123 4699.
With ID cards only being carried by a minority of migrants, initially starting with students applying for further leave and those on Marriage or Civil Partnership visas, the scheme will do little to help or protect employers.
If you are an International Student worried about what to do next, remember that the scheme will initially only affect Student Visa holders applying for Further Leave to Remain using form FLR(S), or varying their leave.
For more information see the UKBA website: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk