ID cards brought forward for some immigrants

Skilled foreign workers will have to enrol for compulsory ID cards from Wednesday, rather than April 2010
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Compulsory ID cards for certain foreign nationals have been brought forward, according to a Home Office announcement.

Skilled workers with sponsors, known as Tier 2 immigrants, will have to apply for the cards from Wednesday, the Home Office said. Previously, this group was scheduled to begin compulsory enrolment in April.

"Identity cards have already been issued to more than 130,000 foreign nationals, with a total of approximately 140,000 due to be issued by the end of the financial year," said border and immigration minister Phil Woolas in a statement on Wednesday. "Identity cards are a secure and simple way for foreign nationals to prove they are entitled to live, work or study in the UK."

Tier 2 immigrants will be required to provide their fingerprints and a photograph at either UK Border Agency biometric enrolment centres or at 17 participating Post Offices around Britain. Those foreign nationals enrolling at participating Post Offices will have to pay an £8 administrative fee, while the cost of the card will be included in the visa application fee.

Privacy campaigner Guy Herbert, who is general secretary of the No2ID group, said on Wednesday that the government was already aware of the identity of Tier 2 foreign nationals, making ID cards for this group superfluous.

"It's completely wasteful," said Herbert. "[The government] are aiming at people they already have an enormous amount of information about, who are in no position to resist or kick up a fuss."

The Conservatives have pledged to scrap the ID card scheme should they win the next general election, which will be held before June.

Herbert said the bringing forward of ID cards for foreign nationals strongly suggests the government is trying to make it more difficult for an incoming opposition government to reverse the scheme. "They are trying to dig the scheme in, to make it more difficult for the Tories to cancel it."

ID cards for foreign students and those seeking to stay in the UK due to relationships such as marriage have been compulsory since November 2008.

ID cards for the general population, which the government has said will not be compulsory, are in the process of being rolled out in the north-west of England, while 16- to 24-year-olds in London will be able to apply for a card early this year.

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