Photos: Government unveils first ID cards

Starting in November, foreign nationals will have to start applying for the controversial identity document.

The government has today revealed the design of the new identity card, which will be issued to foreign nationals' beginning in November.

The same size as a credit or debit card, the document shows the basics such as name, date of birth, and a photograph as well as immigration status. It features an electronic chip holding biometrics which at this point includes fingerprints and a digital photo.

For photos of the card, click here or on 'Gallery' above.

A statement from the UK Borders Agency described the chip as "secure."

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith argued the controversial cards will fight ID fraud, illegal migrants, and crime and terrorism.

She added: "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."

The cards will be compulsory for foreign nationals people from other countries who work or live in the UK with the first round going out on 25 November. All foreign nationals will be expected to have the cards within three years.

Next year, the government wants to see such cards in the hands of workers in "sensitive roles" such as airport staff a move which has met with resistance from unions.

From 2010, ID cards will be given to younger people but only those who want them and following that, the rest of the population can apply.

The scheme has long had its detractors. Lobby group NO2ID said showing off the card's design was nothing but a branding exercise.

"No doubt the Home Secretary is relieved to be able to wave a plastic card and claim it for the ID scheme, given her department has now spent over 100 million pounds of public money; but this is still a cynical branding exercise," said Phil Booth, the group's national coordinator.

He also called out Smith for starting the programme with people who can't refuse the cards so easily and suggested such a plan won't work.

"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 are a different matter. When it comes round to fingerprinting Madonna and her family, say, such tactics will backfire."

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