UK: Identity Cards For Foreign Nationals ("ICFNS")

Last Updated: 7 October 2009
Article by Caron Pope, Emily King and Siobhan Owers

Subject to Parliamentary approval, the UKBA intends to accelerate plans to issue ID Cards to Tier 2 migrants applying for extensions of leave from January 2010. This will mean some changes to Sponsors internal systems to ensure the correct employee documentation is retained.

The UKBA is still on target to introduce ICFNs for all migrants granted leave to remain for more than 6 months by April 2011.

Impact on the Tier 2 Extension Application Process

Unfortunately these changes are likely to increase processing times as migrants (and their family members) will have to submit their biometric details (fingerprints and photograph) in person before their application can be processed irrespective of whether they have already provided biometric details for entry clearance applications abroad.

Proposed Changes to the Submission of Biometric Details

From October 2009, the UKBA will allow biometric details to be submitted at 17 Post Offices across the country without the need for prior appointment. Detailed plans of this proposal are still pending. This will supplement the Biometric Enrolment Centres (in Croydon, Sheffield, Solihull, Cardiff, Liverpool, Belfast and Glasgow) and Identity and Passport Service Interview Offices (London, Brighton, Birmingham and Derby) where biometric details can currently be submitted by prior appointment. No additional fee will be charged to submit biometric details

The UKBA estimates it should take an average of 10 minutes for each applicant to provide biometrics Applicants applying by post will file the application and then wait for the UKBA to send a written request for them to provide their biometrics. Applicants filing under the same day premium service will provide their biometrics when they attend their appointment. It is currently proposed that the ICFN will be sent via secure delivery to all successful applicants within 10 days of the date of their Home Office decision letter – same day production and issue of the card is not possible. This may mean that some applicants are prevented from travelling until the ICFN, documenting their status in the UK, is produced and travel plans will need to be factored into planning timelines where leave is about to expire. We are exploring with the UKBA whether collection will be possible

What This Means for Employers

Migrants issued with ICFNs will no longer receive an endorsement in their passport as evidence of their valid leave to remain in the United Kingdom. The ICFN rather than the passport will be proof of their status The UKBA will gradually expand the number of categories of migrant that must apply for ID cards.

A Sponsor will be required to closely examine the ICFN as part of any on-boarding or annual illegal working checks to ensure that it contains the migrant's name, a "valid until" date for their leave to remain and their immigration status and take a copy for its records that it can establish a Statutory Excuse against any civil penalty for employing a migrant without permission to work here.

ICFNs will only be issued to Tier 2 migrants who are extending their leave from January 2010 .New Tier 2 migrants (for example students switching into this category) will continue to have residence permits endorsed in their passports until further notice and the Sponsor must continue to keep a copy of the passport as evidence of current immigration status in the UK.

Sponsored migrants with ICFNs should ensure that they have both their passport and ID card when travelling, as the ID card cannot be used as a substitute for a valid passport. A passport will prove the holder's right to travel to their destination and their ID card will evidence their right to remain in the UK.

It is regrettable that applicants who have already provided biometrics overseas have to go through this process again at the extension stage and that the same day processing of applications will effectively disappear. It is hoped that the UKBA will continue to listen to the business community and that further arrangements will be made to make the provision of biometrics an easier process, perhaps through the provision of mobile biometric data collection units. We will provide further updates as details are released by the UKBA.

This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to www.law-now.com/law-now/mondaq

Law-Now information is for general purposes and guidance only. The information and opinions expressed in all Law-Now articles are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional or legal advice. All Law-Now information relates to circumstances prevailing at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments.

The original publication date for this article was 06/10/2009.

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