Soon, A New I-Card For Immigrants In UK

Soon, a new I-card for immigrants in UK

Swati Maheshwari
Friday, September 26, 2008, (London)

The United Kingdom is soon going to adopt new identity cards for the non-European Union immigrants to prove their identity and legal status in the country.

Right now, the immigrants just have to carry a visa stamped on the passport.

The Home Office in Britain has unveiled the new card and hopes to register everyone living in Britain by 2014-15, starting with foreign nationals. (Watch)

This ID card with the immigrant's visa status and fingerprints encoded in a chip will soon replace the passport sticker.

Students and those on a marriage visa wanting to extend their stay in Britain will be the first ones to get this card beginning November.

The government says this will help crack down on illegal immigration and allow employers to establish the identity of immigrants seeking work.

“This is for foreign nationals who are seeking a visa for 6 months or more. They go through the same procedure for a visa instead they get a more convenient plastic card which can be used as an ID card as well,” said Lin Home, Chief Executive, UKBA.

The move is bound to raise the hackles of foreign nationals who will be the first ones forced to get these cards from November. But for all the money being spent to fund this scheme – more than 5 billion pounds – its future looks uncertain.

Opposition parties, including the Conservative party, is committed to scrap the scheme if it wins the next elections. They say it infringes on people's personal freedoms.

The opposition also says it discriminates against Asian and African immigrants. The move is also not seen as cost-effective since biometric cards can do the same job at a much less price.

Moreover, other European countries that have tried similar schemes are still struggling to implement them.

“Picking on foreign nationals and saying they will have to comply with this regime will prove to be socially divisive. In fact, it is a cynical ploy. It is opposed by all opposition parties, unions and public. The Home secretary is brandishing this card around with a nod to the racists of this country,” said Phil Booth, a No to ID card campaigner.

Though the scheme aims to cover all those living in Britain, the Home Office said the first target is to ensure all non-EU foreign nationals carry a card by 2015.