In November 2008, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) introduced a new system making it compulsory for migrants from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland to obtain an identity card for foreign nationals (ICFN). Use of ICFNs is being introduced gradually by immigration application type.
From 6 January 2010, ICFNs were compulsory for all sponsored skilled workers applying to extend their stay in the UK under Tier 2 of the points-based system of immigration, and their dependants. The ICFN replaces putting a vignette in the applicant’s passport.
In order to obtain an ICFN, it is necessary to provide biometric information in the form of a digital photograph and, for those over 6 years of age, a 10-digit finger scan. This information is checked against existing records and stored on the card and on the UKBA’s computer system. If the application is successful, an ICFN will be issued.
Migrants making postal applications to extend their stay in the UK will be able to submit their biometrics in one of two ways:
- By making an appointment to attend one of the 11 biometric enrolment centres in the UK; or
- By attending one of the 17 Post Office biometric enrolment centres. This method will only be offered to applicants with certain postcodes.
In addition, there is a Premium One-Day Service, whereby applicants can pay a higher fee and make an appointment to submit their application in person and provide their biometrics at the same time. However, there is currently a long waiting list for appointments.
The UKBA guidance says that successful applicants should receive their ICFNs within 10 working days of receiving their decision letter. The expected time taken to process applications remains at 4 to 6 weeks.
At the end of 2010, the UKBA proposes to extend the requirement to obtain an ICFN to highly skilled and temporary workers when they apply to extend their stay under Tier 1 or Tier 5 of the points-based system.
The UKBA website has further information on which foreign nationals will need an ICFN.