The delivery of the national identity scheme gathered momentum today as plans were laid out by the Home Secretary beginning with the introduction of identity cards for foreign nationals in 2008 and British citizens in 2009.
The scheme will begin in November this year with introduction of identity cards for non-EEA foreign nationals; initially starting with categories most at risk of abuse, which include foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in the UK as a student or on a marriage visa.
Fingerprints will be collected from foreign nationals before they are issued with a card, which will show the details of the holder's immigration status and entitlements – whether they are allowed to work or access benefits, and how long they can stay in the UK.
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.
From 2009, the scheme will be extended to UK citizens. The first ID cards will be issued to people working in specific sensitive roles or locations where verification of identity will enhance the protection of the public. This will start in the second half of 2009, with the issuing of identity cards to those working airside in the country's airports.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly will jointly chair a meeting of industry representatives to ensure the smooth introduction of these new measures.
From 2010 young people will be able, on a voluntary basis, to get an identity card, which will assist them in proving their identity as they open their first bank account, take out a student loan or start employment. Later that year the scheme will be opened to voluntary applicants of any age.
From 2011/12, all passport applicants will also be registered on the scheme as they apply for the new biometric passports containing fingerprints.
British citizens enrolled on the National Identity Register will be able to choose whether to have a passport or an ID card or both. This will enable an accelerated roll-out of the scheme and, alongside steps to work with the private sector in delivery, could result in savings worth around £1bn.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:
"The Government's National Identity Scheme means that for the first time UK residents will have a single way to secure and verify their identity. We will be able to better protect ourselves and our families against identity fraud, as well as protecting our communities against crime, illegal immigration and terrorism. And it will help us to prove our identity in the course of our daily lives – when travelling, for example, or opening a bank account, applying for a new job, or accessing government services.
"I want as many people as possible to enjoy the two key benefits of the National Identity Scheme – improved protection and greater convenience. And I want them to be able to choose how they participate in the Scheme as well – whether to have a passport or an ID card or both – so that they can enjoy its benefits as quickly as possible."
The National Identity Register will hold a small amount of personal biographic details separately from biometric fingerprints and photographs, making it incredibly difficult for anyone to steal or exploit another's identity.
The Government has already proved its ability to deliver a sound basis for the National Identity Scheme. Fingerprinting is already required for visa applicants to the UK and over ten million British e-passports have been issued since the end of 2006, containing an encrypted digital version of the holder's personal details and a photograph on a secure chip.