Mark A Ivener, A Law Corporation

UK Identity Cards for Foreign Nationals

In November 2008, the United Kingdom (UK) Border Agency (UKBA) set out its plan to introduce a requirement for all non-British or European Economic Area (EEA) nationals applying for leave to enter or remain in the UK to register biometric data as part of their visa applications. An applicant’s biometric data and permission to enter or remain in the UK is recorded in an Identity Card for Foreign Nationals (ICFN), replacing the vignette sticker placed in the migrant’s passport as a certificate of permission to enter or remain in the UK.

All relevant applicants and their dependents must now attend an appointment in person to give facial and fingerprint information, which is encoded on a secure readable microchip embedded within the ICFN. The credit card-sized ICFN is designed to be carried with the migrant at all times, and presented with the migrant’s passport upon entry into, and exit from, the UK and without which the migrant may be refused entry. The information stored on the ICFN is designed to be scanned upon entry to the UK and by UKBA staff performing compliance visits, and is heralded as a key tool in the detection of forged travel and ID documents and ultimately a step closer to the UKBA’s goal of eliminating undocumented work in the UK.

ICFN scheme extended to skilled workers under Tier 2 of the Points Based System. The ICFN scheme initially applied only to those applying to remain in the UK under the student category and the spouse, unmarried partner, same-sex partner and civil partner category, which the UKBA asserts are the high-risk immigration routes for identity fraud and visa abuse. Between December 2009 and March 2009, the UKBA extended the requirement for an ICFN to include migrants applying to remain in the UK as students under Tier 4 of the Points Based System (PBS), and to non-PBS categories, including post-graduate doctors and dentists, academic visitors (extending beyond six months in total), domestic workers in private households, UK ancestry, and the sole representatives of overseas business categories.

On September 24, 2009, the UKBA announced that starting in January 2010, all foreign nationals applying for an extension of their immigration permission (leave to remain) as a skilled worker under Tier 2 and their dependents in the UK would require an ICFN as part of their application. On December 10, 2009, the UKBA announced that the requirement would be implemented from January 6, 2010. Employers therefore had less than one month over the holiday period to assist any employees in the UK with leave to remain as a work permit holder nearing expiration with the submission of an extension application prior to the implementation date. Any applications submitted on or after January 6, 2010, would require in-person biometrics appointments as part of the application process.

The UKBA has confirmed on its Web site that it intends to further extend ICFNs to all highly skilled migrant applications submitted in the UK under Tier 1 of the PBS later in 2010.

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About the Author

Mark A. Ivener, A Law Corporation, a nationally recognized law firm, has successfully assisted hundreds of clients in immigration matters.