LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will issue the first ID cards to foreign nationals on Tuesday, the start of the roll-out of the controversial multi-billion pound scheme.
Students and those who enter the country on marriage visas will now be required to apply for one of the new biometric cards.
Initially only those from outside the European Economic Area will be affected but as the scheme is extended the government expects that by the end of 2014/15 about 90 percent of all foreign nationals will have been issued with an ID card.
“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,” said Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.
Over the next few years the scheme will be expanded to include Britons, starting with staff who work airside at Manchester and London City airports.
Despite a series of embarrassing data losses recently, including the admission that the personal details of half the population had been mislaid, the government insists that both the cards and their related databases will be secure.
But critics of the cards, which will contain personal details, fingerprints and a facial image, remain unimpressed.
Both major opposition parties have vowed to ditch cards for Britons should they win power.
(Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Kate Kelland)