The Home Office has unveiled identity cards to be issued to foreign residents in the UK.
The plastic wallet cards show the holder’s photograph, name, date of birth, nationality and immigration status. A secure electronic chip holds their biometric details, including fingerprints, and a digital facial image.
The first cards are scheduled to be issued 25 November. Within three years all foreign nationals applying to enter or remain in the UK will be required to have a card.
By 2014, 90 per cent of foreign residents in Britain should have identity cards, according to the Home Office.
The introduction of national identity cards for foreign residents will be followed by the first ID cards for British citizens, targeting workers in sensitive roles – such as airports – from 2009.
Then from 2010 ID cards will be available to young people who want them. From 2011, cards will be available to the general population.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: ‘ID cards will help protect against identity fraud and illegal working, reduce the use of multiple identities in organised crime and terrorism, crack down on those trying to abuse positions of trust, and make it easier for people to prove they are who they say they are. ID cards for foreign nationals will replace old-fashioned paper documents, make it easier for employers and sponsors to check entitlement to work and study, and for the UK Border Agency to verify someone’s identity. This will provide identity protection to the many here legally who contribute to the prosperity of the UK, while helping prevent abuse.’
For the Tories, Dominic Grieve said it is “high time” Labour abandon their "ill-fated" ID cards project.
The Shadow Home Secretary said: “ID cards are an expensive white elephant that risk making us less – not more – safe.”
And he said the Government were “kidding themselves” if they think ID Cards for foreign nationals will protect against illegal immigration or terrorism – as they don’t apply to those coming here for less than three months.
A Conservative Government would abandon the ID cards project, and Grieve said he hoped Labour had taken that into account when they negotiated the contracts. “If they have not acted on this to protect the British taxpayer, it is reckless in the extreme at a time of heightened economic uncertainty.”
And for the Liberal Democrats, unveiling of the design for ID cards is another step towards the Government’s creation of a ‘laminated poll tax’, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne, said. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has already said that he will break the law and refuse to provide his details to the ID card database rather than sign up for the scheme.
Commenting on the new design, Chris Huhne said: "It does not matter how fancy the design of ID cards is, they remain a grotesque intrusion on the liberty of the British people.
"The Government is using vulnerable members of our society, like foreign nationals who do not have the vote, as guinea pigs for a deeply unpopular and unworkable policy.
"When voting adults are forced to carry ID cards, this scheme will prove to be a laminated Poll Tax."