UK's New ID Card: Stealth Tax to Foreign Nationals?

1 Comment » October 4th, 2008 posted by // Categories: General Articles



New ID Card: Stealth Tax to Foreign Nationals?

By Dr Ola Ajileye

It is the prerogative of any authority to introduce policies that promotes the welfare of their citizenry, but in doing this, it is important to consider in fairness how such policies would impact on others who by reason of a natural global phenomenon, called immigration, have become part and parcel of the jurisdiction in which they live.

 

Since then, I have not stop to wondered whether, this has really been thought through very well by the policy makers and the indication for the introduction of such idea is not narrow and discriminatory socially and financially for those who are intended to subscribe to this. This idea ab initio has been very controversial as it is not been welcomed by a large section of the UK citizenry given the fragile trust many have about the ability of the authority to keep the integrity of their personal information, but more controversial is the fact that this is planned to be forced upon foreign nationals, people, who by virtue of their being migrants here are very vulnerable and are going to be made the guinea pig by the government to test this controversial policy at a fee. This idea has already been described by one MP as a Laminated Poll Tax.

 

 In addition to so many other concerns I ponder on, I have reason to wondered given that historically, the HSMP law again for foreign nationals, mainly highly qualified professionals, was likewise changed sometime ago with attendant confusion and outcry which led to a serious challenge and consequently a judicial review before Sir George Newman, who later concluded in no uncertain terms, the high-handedness, arbitrariness and unfairness of such change. Many affected foreign nationals are yet to recover from the profound professional, social, financial and family damage that change has brought upon them.

Coincidentally, this was a law that was introduced to attract highly skilled professionals, with legitimate expectations, from other parts of the world to assist in building the UK economy, and the arbitrary change was operational by fiat in the month November 2006. Now, the new ID card scheme is going to be introduced as proposed, for foreign nationals again on the 25th November 2008.

 

Again, I am wondering what is in month of November that, it has now become a month that the community of foreign nationals in the UK should begin to dread and not look forward to, because the government can just wish any law or experimental ideology on them without any recourse for what impact such Gestapo-like variation would have on their livelihood in a foreign land.
 
Without diversion from the original issue at hand I mentioned, another wonder for me is again whether this is really a necessary policy to be pursued by the UK government, given that this may not be a free service to the intended clients, the foreigners who have come to live in the UK under one form of status or another, when in fact the authority already have in their possession, their biometric data and finger prints. I have reason to wonder along this line, because, historically, I recall that, few years previously, any foreign nationals who have a cause to obtain an LTR (leave to Remain) or ILR (indefinite Leave to remain), or for that matter any variation of some sort to their immigration status from the Home Office, were not required to make any payment provided you have enough documentary evidence to meet such requirement. I recall the era when overseas medics only needed to provide evidence of employment and they will be issued  Permit free training (PFT) visa from the Home Office and if you need to extend for any reason, you either pay a token or nothing at all.

 

But in recent years, records have shown that gradually, a fee was introduced and it has since gone up many folds such that, it may cost up to about £1000 to obtain a work permit or process an HSMP LTR from the home office or extend the student visa or apply for a variation on the visa status. Also the price of ILR has also sky-rocketed far above the reach of most foreign citizens in the UK requiring such services from the Home Office. Before the HSMP became a big financial burden and an albatross on foreign applicants, it was considered with so much regard, until the introduction of the point-review system which itself has become financially and professionally unattainable to many people needing it. Gradually, confidence in the genuineness of the UK government about any scheme of such nature has been regarded with a cynical view; given those changes happen very rapidly and at a huge cost to the foreigners.
 
With the announcement of this new ID card scheme to be commenced in November 2008, the question one would like to ask again is how much will the foreigners be required to pay for this again and why really do foreign nationals in the UK need another ID when infact their respective international passports remains the authentic internationally acceptable form of ID? The government has proposed £30 to get the card issued, but we know that applications to the Home Office for any immigration matter is not that cheap and the foreign citizens are held hostage to these fees in a situation that is akin to a state of learned helplessness. One is aware that, to obtain a visa to the UK, it does not come cheap, in whatever category, and the prices have been upwardly reviewed at various times at many UK foreign missions for good reasons.

 

There is always a reason and plausible excuse for this, the same way the reason for introduction of an ID scheme to foreign nationals appear plausible. The argument for it may sound very plausible in the face of global terrorism, managing illegal immigrations or employment. But really, is it really going to stop all these things and why should foreign nationals living in the UK be made to pay for the battle that should be the collective responsibility of the UK government? Already, as it stands, every foreign student who come in to the UK institutions to study, pay almost 5 times the home student fees, in addition to other fees payable. If they need to vary their immigration status at the Home Office, they will be required to pay not less than £500 for every variation. Not forgetting also that there is a cap and restrictions on the number of hours of work they are allowed to do, in the face of all these huge fees.

 

Now, a new ID card scheme would mean that potentially, they would have to find means of defraying the cost of that even though they already possess an ID in the form of their international passport and all their records and data are within the possession of the UK government. Why then do foreign nationals in the UK need another ID? Why the need to introduce such discriminatory policy to a nation that prides itself on Multi-culturalism and Multi-ethnicism in the global forum? This policy is potentially open to a lot of abuse by so many sections of the society just like the introduction of Stop and search policy was met with a resounding outcry due to the nature in which it was used. Why must a foreign national be obligated to carry such an ID? Is this proposal going to be a statutory requirement for every foreign national? Is there a provision for this in the UK legislation that people must carry an ID card of some sort in order to prove their identity? Where lays the choice, right or liberty for anyone to want to prove his or her identity in other traditionally acceptable way?  My worry is that, UK is gradually and stealthily becoming a very unfriendly nation to foreigners if they will then be required to purchase a UK ID regardless of whether they already carry their international passports.

 

The argument for the need to introduce this new ID scheme to combat Illegal working, may sound very plausible from the point of view of the government, but is it a popular view amongst UK citizens who in one way or another have been associated to people from different backgrounds and ethnicity either by marriage or one form of relationship or the other? Given this fact, should it not be a better investment on the part of the UK government to consider giving an Identity to those people who by virtue of their immigration status, have been driven underground and do not have an official ID but yet have been law abiding and have been contributing albeit, as a result of underground working, pay their little taxes and token to the development of the UK economy and have not in any shape or form constitute a burden to any UK public services? There are many untapped skills that would be worth the investment of the UK government by providing an official ways by which such skills can be beneficial to the development of the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, rainbow reputation of the United Kingdom.

 

Introducing a New ID card only for foreign nationals is an expenditure that will be taken from the public purse and given that it will not be a free service targeted at the foreign citizens in the UK, it will be unfair therefore to make them pay for what really they don’t need in proving their ID. UK citizens can choose to subscribe to this ID scheme, but really, it should be an optional thing for any foreign national residing in the UK and it will not be fair to introduce it as a statutory requirement for living in the UK. That will again be an arbitrary act and may be subject to a lot of controversy and judicial challenge as the HSMP review law.

 

Disclaimer

This article is not at all an attempt to castigate, malign or unduly criticise the good intention of the British government through the Home Office activities in making Britain a better place for all. It is intended to provide an alternative but genuine view to the whole policy of a new ID card Scheme for the Foreigners who have come to the UK for one reason or another. 

 

Dr Olayiwola Ajileye writes from the West Midlands, United Kingdom.

 

 

 

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One Response to “UK's New ID Card: Stealth Tax to Foreign Nationals?”

  1. akhigbe rosemary says:

    it encouraging if can produced another identity card for citizenry & noncitizenry ,so that here wil been which is which.

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