Effective 25th November 2008, the UK Home Office started issuing biometric identity cards to foreign nationals. For applicants who are applying for further leave to remain (FLR) in the UK, including those originally in possession of a UK fiancee visa, some may be required to gain an identity card.
The applicants who will initially be expected to be granted identity cards are foreign students and their dependents from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, and spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners of British citizens and lawful permanent residents. The UK Home Office has provided clear guidelines for the identity cards, with a detailed explanation of the purpose of the cards, how they will be used, benefits of the cards and details of who will be issued with a UK identity card.
Biometric identity cards will serve as evidence of the bearer’s immigration status and permission to work in the UK. Each card will include a digital image of the bearer’s face and biographic information on the electronic chip embedded in the card. This will facilitate verification of identity through facial recognition at ports of entry through the UK Boarder Agency electronic verification system. Through the bearer’s fingerprints, the immigration authorities are now able to access potentially useful information, such as the foreign individual’s identity, date of birth, and country of origin. Essentially, the activities of those who have been given permission to stay in the UK will be able to be monitored more closely than they could be in the past.
These changes have been made mainly in an effort to enhance border security and reduce visa fraud. While it is quite possible to invent a new identity, it is not possible to change one’s fingerprints, so authorities can effectively use biometric information to identify individuals who may pose a threat to the UK or attempt to deceive the immigration system, even if they are using a false identity.