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Immigrants to be issued ID cards

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Immigrants to be issued ID cards
13:59 CEST+02:00
After months of silence, the government on Tuesday confirmed that Sweden's Tax Agency (Skatteverket) will be asked to take over responsibility for issuing national identification cards.

“I can say now that Skatteverket will be named in the budget as the agency which will issue ID cards,” said Markus Sjöqvist, a spokesperson for Minister of Finance Anders Borg, to The Local.

The autumn budget proposition is due to be presented on September 22nd, and will include more details about how much money the government has appropriated for the change.

The decision marks a departure from a government report published in December 2007 which proposed that the police should take over responsibility for issuing Swedish ID cards.

An official from the Tax Agency said it would have been preferable for the police to issue ID cards, as his agency had not made the necessary preparations.

“It's totally new for us,” said Tax Agency legal expert Lars Tegenfeldt to The Local.

“It would have been cheaper for the police to do it as they have most of the equipment in place.”

Currently, Swedish ID cards are issued by the police, as well as by some of the country's larger banks.

However, the police will only issue ID cards to Swedish citizens, leaving immigrants and other non-Swedes residing in the country to seek cards from banks, which have proved inconsistent in their application of existing rules regarding who should receive an identification card.

The delay in clarifying the new regulations has been an irritant to non-Swedish citizens who report feeling marginalized in their ability to carry out the many tasks in daily Swedish life which require government issued identification.

“We care very much about this issue and regret that it has taken so long. It took much more time than we expected,” said Sjöqvist, although he declined to provide an explanation as to why exactly the process had taken so long.

In addition, banks themselves appear to have been using the uncertainty surrounding new regulations as an excuse not to issue ID cards to foreigners.

In an unconfirmed report published on Tuesday, the Göteborgs-Posten newspaper also raised the issue of the Tax Agency's proposed new role. The newspaper further reported on the case of Inger Jonassen, a Norwegian national who has lived in Sweden for five years but was unable to get her own bank, SEB, to issue her a new ID card after she lost her wallet.

“This time they said that I couldn't get an ID card because of new rules put in place by the government,” Jonassen told the newspaper.

Frustrated by the incident, she wrote a letter to the Prime Minister's office only to receive a response that ID cards “are in principle outside of the state's control” and that “the state's influence over the cards' design is very limited”.

The question of which agency should take over ultimate responsibility for issuing Swedish ID cards has remained unanswered for nearly a year and a half, and has been reviewed by three separate ministries in the last six months.

In March, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Integration told The Local that the ministry would issue a statement on the issue by Easter.

After the date passed, The Local learned the ID card issue had been handed over to the Ministry of Justice for review.

But it was Sjöqvist from the Ministry of Finance who was finally able to confirm the government's plans.

He hinted that part of the delay may have been due to the difficulty in working out exactly which agency would ultimately have responsibility.

“It has been one of the key issues,” he said.

While Tegenfeldt emphasized that the Tax Agency would abide by the government's decision, he made it clear that agency would have preferred to see a different result.

“It's not a good idea from an economic point of view,” he said.

“We're trying to reduce the size of our organization and this will certainly be an impediment to that.”

Tegenfeldt said the Tax Agency had been making “soft moves” in anticipation of being named the new issuer of Swedish ID cards, including exploring possible costs and timelines, but that no major decisions or investments had been made so far.

“Of course we can do this, provided we are given the money required,” he said.

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