ID cards to be issued to foreigners in the UK

On 25 November the UK Home Office started the process of issuing compulsory identity cards to foreigners living in Britain.

In a move that signals the first significant phase of the Government's £4.7billion identity card scheme, foreign students and people applying for a visa on the basis of marrying a British citizen will be the first to receive ID cards in the UK since the 1950s.

The credit-card-style cards will be issued to people who must apply in person at one of seven special immigration offices in the UK where they will first be photographed and subjected to finger-printing, so as lock them to one identity. The card will bear information such as their name, date and place of birth, sex, nationality, the place and date of issue, the type of permit and the period of validity. It will also show if the person is eligible for work and whether or not they have access to publicly funded state benefits and some other services.

Students renewing their visa and who are issued with an identity card will pay between £295 and £500 whilst people renewing marriage visas will pay between £395 and £595. The replacement fee for a lost card is £30.

Cards will be issued initially in Croydon and within 3 weeks at other centres in Glasgow, Cardiff, Northern Ireland, Sheffield, Solihull and Liverpool. About 50,000 cards are expected to be issued to foreign nationals by April and, according to Home Office estimates, three million cards will have been dispensed to them by 2010.

All new foreign nationals and those extending their stay will have a card within three years. It is estimated that by the end of 2014 about 90 per cent of all foreign nationals in the UK will have been issued with one.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said: "The first identity cards for foreign nationals, along with the launch of tiers 2 and 5 of the points system, demonstrate our commitment to preventing immigration abuse and protecting the prosperity of the UK. 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."

Identity cards will be mandatory for all for foreign nationals and will help secure the United Kingdom's borders by improving immigration control and reducing identity abuses. They will also enable those here legally to prove it and prevent those here illegally from benefiting from the privileges of life in the United Kingdom.

Companies will have to keep records of the migrants they have sponsored, including their contact details and a copy of their identity card.