ID cards and overseas nationals how long does someone have to be in the country before they have to register for an ID card?

Since at least November 2003 (see below) the principle has been that overseas nationals would have to have "biometric identity documents" if they were staying in the country for more than three months.

There was some debate why they should be allowed so long before having to register and how this provision could be enforced.

The Home Secretary gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee in May 2004 explaining how important it was to have this three-month limit and how he had fought to stop it being extended to six months.

The government confirmed in October 2004 that the limit would be three months.

Then, without warning and without explanation, in December 2006, the limit was extended to six months.

This will make possession of an ID card even less universal than originally planned. The card will be of even less use in the fights against crime and terrorism. It will be devalued even further.

Mobile phone penetration, in the meantime, remains high, almost universal. An overseas visitor's mobile phone can be monitored from the moment he arrives in the country, and even before he arrives, there is no need to wait for three months or six months. The ID cards move from three months to six months makes the case for the use of mobile phones in the fights against crime and terrorism even stronger.

Identity Cards The Next Steps
Once the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has confirmed that the programme is ready to proceed, we will publish draft legislation to enable the scheme to be introduced and pave the way for the establishment of more reliable means of proving people’s identity. This will include ... introducing mandatory biometric identity documents for foreign nationals coming to stay in the UK for longer than 3 months. For nationals from countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) this will be done in a way which is fully compatible with European law ... (pp.4-5)

November 2003

Home Affairs - Minutes of Evidence
Q611 Chairman: At any one time, as you say, there will be many people in the country quite legally who do not require an ID card because they are visitors or they are here for a short period of time and not requiring the three-month period of time or they are from other EU countries, together with those who might, for example, have forged EU papers who would present themselves as EU citizens but do not require an identity card. Is it not still going to be very difficult to enforce any action against illegal working by relying on the existence on an ID card?

Mr Blunkett: If you are here for a very short period of time and you are not drawing down on services or requiring public support, then you are effectively a visitor/tourist and there is no immediate problem with that. The issue that we are engaging with is people staying any length of time and, incidentally, if they are engaged in organised crime or terrorism, all the evidence from both the security service and from NCIS and NCS is that people do have to spend time preparing and planning events, they do not just wander in and do it, then the three-month cut-off makes sense. It makes sense in terms of ensuring that people who are here for any greater length of time have to be part of the process. It fits in—and we have fought very hard to maintain this to ensure it was not moved to six months—that we can translate the EU registration into the ID card so that people coming from the rest of the EU and remaining in the country for any length of time would have to have an ID card. It is perfectly feasible if they are here for a fixed period of time for the card to expire[1] and to be able with the appropriate technology over the years ahead to ensure that that is the case. So the minute that anyone who is not properly registered on the database, and is therefore not entitled to be here, tries to access services or to engage in a way that would require their proper verification of identity, that would show up and we would be able to deal with it in a way that we cannot at the moment.

4 May 2004

... The Government is now in a position to bring forward more specific proposals, which build on both the original statement in Identity Cards:The Next Steps which was published in November 2003 and the work which has been carried out subsequently. The essential elements of the scheme remain the same: the establishment of a new, secure register and biometric cards for British nationals resident in the UK and foreign nationals resident for more than three months. (p.3)

October 2004


The Identity Cards Act received Royal Assent on 30 March 2006. It establishes in statute the framework for a National Identity Scheme. This scheme will eventually cover everyone aged 16 or over who is legally resident in the United Kingdom for a specified period, likely to be three months or more ...

Ultimately this will ensure that everyone who has been given permission to enter the UK, those allowed to remain for more than a specified period (likely to be 3 months), and those claiming asylum can be identified securely using their biometrics.

October 2006

Strategic Action Plan for the National Identity Scheme
... by April 2008 we will be recording biometrics for everyone from the 169 nationalities outside the EEA applying to work, study or stay in the UK for more than six months, and for people from 108 nationalities applying to visit the UK. (para.59)

December 2006

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