Home Office Shows First ID Card Models Amidst Growing Privacy Concerns

The Home Office has unveiled its first ID card model, weeks before the ID card scheme is due to be rolled out nationwide and made compulsory for foreign immigrants coming to Britain.

The plans for a national ID card have been criticised by many - including both major opposition parties - since the idea of having one gained traction following the London Bombings three years ago.

Apart from helping fend off terrorist threat, the GBP 4.7 billion scheme will also, in theory, stem the flow of illegal immigrants (ed: although it is unlikely to dissuade those from Sangatte camp from crossing the Chunnel)

The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, said that an identity card would strengthen the country's security and will be issued to non-European foreigners as from the 25th of November, with personal details displayed on it; these will include a digital photo, names, date of birth and current visa status.

Central to the ID scheme is biometric data which will contain precious details about the ID card holder and which some - like privacy group NO2ID - view as a breach of individual's privacy.

Ms Smith said that "ID cards for foreign nationals will replace old-fashioned paper documents, make it easier for employers and sponsors to check entitlement to work and study, and for the UK Border Agency to verify someone's identity."

By 2011, all foreign nationals applying to remain or entering in the UK will be required to take the ID card with the Home Office wanting 90 percent of foreign residents to have the card by 2014.

UK citizens will also need to get the card as early as 2009 with sensitive key posts - like in banks and law enforcement agencies - first concerned; by 2011, the card will be available to the rest of the population.

Already 2.8 million visa applicants have been fingerprinted and new measures enforced by the UK Border agency have seen 3500 cases of identity swapping in the country.