The British government on Thursday implemented a scheme under which Indian and other non-European Union members in the UK applying for extension to stay will be issued biometric identity cards from November.
The identity cards are intended to prevent illegal immigration, home secretary Jacqui Smith said adding that the cards will be issued to marriage visa holders also.
The scheme will allow people to “easily and securely prove their identity. We want to be able to prevent those here illegally benefiting from the privileges of Britain,” she said.
Besides carrying name, photographs and nationality, the cards will have holders’ immigration status and two fingerprints.
While it will help immigration and police officers to verify identity and detect abuse, the cards will also ensure that employers and colleges can ascertain the identity and status of the holders.
“We all want to see our borders more secure and human trafficking, organised immigration crime, illegal working and benefit fraud tackled. ID cards for foreign nationals, in locking people to one identity, will deliver in all these areas,” Smith said.
These compulsory identity cards for foreign nationals will kick start the National Identity Scheme, with the first applicants having to apply for cards from November 25.
Within three years all foreign nationals applying for leave to enter or remain in the UK will be required to have a card, with around 90 per cent of foreign nationals in Britain covered by the scheme by 2014/15.
The scheme has been criticised by a group which described the step a “softening-up exercise” by the government.