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UK.gov to double number of biometric chips for immigrants

Post Office steps up effort to meet 400k-a-year target

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The government is to double the number of people required to have a biometric residence permit (BRP) to stay in the UK, raising the number to 400,000 a year.

The system is being expanded to include refugees and those given the right to live in the UK permanently. It will mean that all non-EEA (European Economic Area) nationals applying to remain in the UK for more than six months will now need the compulsory permits.

BRPs hold a person's fingerprints and photograph on a secure chip, and can be used to confirm information on each individual's work and benefits entitlements. From June, an online Employers' Checking Service for BRPs will enable employers, and later in the year public authorities, to run real-time checks on whether individuals are eligible to work or access services in the UK.

Most of the 650,000 BRPs issued since their introduction in 2008 have gone to workers or students from outside the EEA wanting to stay in the UK for more than six months.

The new move extends the requirement to people applying for refugee status, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave settlement or indefinite leave to remain; those asking for temporary leave to remain; 'No Time Limit' applicants (migrants who require evidence of settled status to be re-issued); and applicants for a Home Office travel document, if they do not already hold a valid biometric residence permit.

The Post Office is to support the extension by rolling out a network of biometric enrolment sites, with the aim of adding 87 to the existing 17 sites by mid April. The sites will collect fingerprints, a digital photograph and an electronic signature and send them through a secure channel to the UK Border Agency.

The Post Office is also setting up a mobile fingerprint enrolment service.

Immigration minister Damian Green said the move is aimed at reducing immigration abuse by proving people's right to work or access services.

"This will help ensure only those with the right to be here can take a job legally in the UK and enjoy the services to which they are entitled," he said. "The new measures are a deterrent to all foreign nationals who are looking to exploit the UK for personal gain by breaking the law."

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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