The government has delayed the widespread introduction of ID cards, and will instead initially target three groups for the £18bn scheme.
Home secretary Jacqui Smith said today that foreign nationals from outside the EU, airport and port workers and students would be the first people to be targeted by the ID card scheme.
And in a major government U-turn, she said UK citizens would instead be able to use their passports to prove who they say they are, instead of having to apply for a national ID card too.
There will be an opt-out from the national ID card when renewing passports. The two were previously married together in the government's original scheme.
Non-EU nationals will be issued with compulsory ID cards later this year, and airport baggage handlers and people in other sensitive security roles will get them from 2009.
Students will be offered them from 2010. Although they will not be compulsory, the National Union of Students (NUS) said not having one may make it difficult for students to apply for a student loan, get a bank account or access college services.
The NUS opposes the plan as result.
The government previously planned to take biometrics - including fingerprints - from everyone applying for a new passport from this year.
The proposal was that anyone applying for a passport or renewing one from January 2010 would also have to get an ID card.
The taking of biometrics for a passport now will not be compulsory until 2012.