Passport Cards for British Citizens

Citizens of nearly all European Economic Area countries can travel around most of Europe using only their ID cards with no need to carry a passport. So that British citizens can enjoy the same convenience as citizens of other EEA countries, the United Kingdom should issue optional passport cards to British citizens, which would likewise be recognised throughout most of Europe.

Petition

Please sign the petition on the HM Government e-Petitions web site:

e-Petition: Passport Cards for British Citizens

You can sign the e-petition if you are a UK resident of any nationality or if you are a British citizen living anywhere in the world. In order for this to be debated in the House of Commons, 100,000 signatures are required by 9th August 2012.

Rationale

Existing legal obligation to carry
Most EU countries require everyone, including British citizens, to carry a travel document at all times. For citizens of European Economic Area countries, in practice this means a national identity card, except for British, Irish and Danish citizens, who must carry a bulky passport instead because their governments don't issue ID cards. Many British citizens, while staying in other European countries, risk being fined for failing to carry a national identity card or passport, because the British passport is insufficiently small or durable to carry at all times, not fitting in a wallet or purse.

Commercial need to carry
In some countries such as Spain, it is impossible to use a credit or debit card in a supermarket without showing a national identity card, or failing that a passport. The many British residents in Spain therefore have to carry their passports in order to go shopping, something that is even less practical in warmer climes when one has fewer pockets.

Portability and durability
The British passport was never designed to be carried at all times on a daily basis. British citizens resident in other European countries who carry their passports every day, whether for legal compliance or to support purchases by credit or debit card, therefore find that their passports deteriorate to a poor state and sometimes do not last for their ten year validity period. When entering an EEA country, EEA passports do not receive a stamp. It therefore causes unnecessary wear and tear for the paper pages of an EEA passport to be carried around within the EEA.

Use within the UK
Even within the UK, British passports are required for many purposes, for example some types of bank transaction and often as proof of nationality, for example by employers as proof of right to work in the UK. Passport cards would allow British citizens to carry their passport in a more portable format in a wallet or purse, but without the bulky paper pages that are necessary only for non-EEA travel.

Relationship to ID cards
There is clear opposition in the UK to ID cards, for fears of future compulsion and unnecessary state collation of personal data. Although there is quite rightly no obligation in the UK to carry a travel document at all times, this does not mean that the British government should ignore the fact that its own citizens are required to do so while in other European countries. The laws of most European countries are based on an assumption of issuance of card-sized travel documents by citizens' countries of nationality, and the British government should recognise that many of its citizens live or work in other European countries which have different laws from our own. Like full passports, the cards should be linked only to the passport database, and should not be called "ID cards" in order to emphasise that their purpose is primarily for travel and a passport substitute. Approximately 13,200 ID cards were issued by the UK before the current government cancelled the scheme. The low uptake was caused by the previous government restricting availability to specific groups of people and denying the cards to British citizens living outside the UK, despite these being the British citizens who needed them the most as travel documents.

Costs
The Identity and Passport Service can use its shelved infrastructure for the aborted ID card scheme in order to produce passport cards. This would leverage the millions of pounds of taxpayers' money already spent and would prevent this considerable investment being wasted. The marginal cost of each passport card would be self-funding in that the cards would be obtained only by those people who want or need them because of their travel habits. The cards could be funded by an optional additional fee at the time of a full passport application. In this way, the identity of the applicant is processed only once, but two travel documents are issued, both using existing infrastructure of the Identity and Passport Service.

Denial of travel during visa processing
British citizens require visas in order to visit many non-EEA countries, for example China, Cuba, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia. While a British passport is in the possession of another country's embassy in order for a visa to be processed, a British citizen is unable to travel within the European Economic Area. Citizens of other EEA countries do not suffer from this obstruction, because they can instead use their ID cards to continue travelling. This scenario is particularly restrictive for British citizens who travel frequently for their work as well as for British citizens who live in other EU countries.

Geographic validity
Card-sized travel documents issued by EU countries are accepted officially for entry to Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, and voluntarily by non-EEA countries Albania, Andorra, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, the Faroe Islands, Macedonia, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia and Vatican City. Consequently a passport card issued by the United Kingdom would enjoy similar acceptance.

Reduced work for consulates
Passport cards would result in reduced work for British consulates, because fewer passports would be lost or stolen as a result of being carried in insecure pockets or left in hotel rooms. Cards are habitually kept safe within a wallet or purse, whereas a full passport is often carried in a place that the holder is not in the habit of protecting.

Existing passport cards elsewhere
The United States has issued optional passport cards to US citizens since July 2008. Like card-sized travel documents in Europe, the US passport cards can be used for travel only within North America.

Existing cards for British citizens
The only card-sized travel documents currently issued to British citizens are issued by the Government of Gibraltar, who recognise that local British citizens cannot be expected to carry a bulky passport at all times when travelling frequently across the border to neighbouring Spain. The UK government should afford the same convenience to British citizens living in the UK.