UK introduces biometric ID cards for foreign nationals

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London, Sep 25 (UNI) Tightening the noose on illegal working in the UK, foreign nationals, including Indians, will be issued biometric identity cards from November.

The biometric card, unveiled today by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith will be issued, initially to non-EU students like those coming from India and marriage visa holders.

However, people working in airports and other high security jobs will receive them from next year.

The design - containing a picture and digitally-stored fingerprints - is a precursor to the proposed national identity card scheme. They will also detail the holder's visa status and right to work.

From 2011, everyone over the age of 16 applying for a passport will have their details added to a national identity register.

Ministers say the cards will boost national security, tackle identity fraud, prevent illegal working and improve border controls.

ID cards are a hugely controversial issue with many campaigners vehemently opposed to the government's plans.

The government claims that the ID cards will provide ''an easy and secure way for legal UK residents to prove who they are when they apply for services at private businesses, or for government benefits.'' ''The cards will be linked to their owners by unique biometric identifiers (for example, fingerprints). This is reliable way to ensure the cards are legitimate, and to protect everyone from identity theft,'' the Home Office states.

However, Phil Booth, from the campaign group NO2ID, is of the view: ''To suggest ID cards are somehow connected to immigration policy Jacqui Smith is deliberately engaging in populist bullying of the soft targets--anonymous individuals seeking marriage visas or education -- those who have no choice but to keep quiet and comply.

All resident foreigners is a different matter. When it comes round to fingerprinting Madonna or Kylie, say, such tactics will ackfire.'' UNI XC ARB RN1531

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