Home Secretary Alan Johnson has recently been in talks with the UK Border Agency to look at ways in which the proposed identity card scheme for foreign nationals may be speeded up.
The current plans see all foreign nationals requiring compulsory identity cards within three years, meaning that any person from outside the European Economic Area wanting to live and work in the UK for more than six months will have to go through the rigorous process of obtaining an identity card, which includes both personal and biometric information.
The Home Secretary requested that the UK Border Agency reviews its current rollout programme for compulsory identity cards for foreign nationals in the hope that it can be accelerated, reducing the estimated three-year project timeline.
This request goes hand in hand with the UK Government’s plan to issue identity cards for British nationals, too, with a number of locations across the UK geared up for the process as of the end of 2009, starting with Greater Manchester, with residents in other parts of the North West entitled to apply from 2010.
A third group of people are also to be among the first to be issued with identity cards. Through an 18-month evaluation project at Manchester Airport and London City Airport, airside workers are currently being encouraged to apply for a voluntary identity card free of charge, compared to the estimated per card cost of £93. This group have been chosen in order to make the necessary background and pass-issuing checks faster and more efficient, offering increased flexibility for employers and employees to work across airside locations.
There have already been 50,000 identity cards issues to foreign nationals legally living and working in the UK, which are currently overseen by the Information Commissioner and the Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, although there are plans afoot to appoint a dedicated independent Identity Commissioner.