DUBAI // As many as 100,000 Emiratis are expected in a rush to register for national identity cards in the two weeks before the Dec 31 deadline. The last-minute charge may force registration centres to extend opening hours after Eid al Adha. Only 73,000 people were registered for the ID card for the whole month of November, said Thamer al Qasemi, the planning director of the Emirates Identity Authority (Eida).
With registration centres closed through the Eid al Adha holiday, Eida staff will have half that time to register a far larger number of people. Emiratis who do not have cards by the deadline could be fined Dh1,000 (US$270). Recently, staff working at national ID processing centres were given anger-management training to help them deal with the rush of frustrated people trying to have their applications processed.
Mr al Qasemi said: "From Dec 14, we will be very busy as nationals who have not yet registered will have a two-week deadline. After that, the fines and laws will apply." He said there was no plan to extend the deadline. "We have reached the maximum registration figure per month for November with 73,000, up 8,000 from October." Mr al Qasemi said priority would be given to Emiratis over expatriate residents so they can meet the deadline.
"Most Emiratis are committed to this programme and have registered. The majority of the 100,000 to register are students, diplomats and people in jail. This is the assumption we are making," he said. "Residents should give priority to nationals so they can finish the process. By the last week, we will play it by ear and see if we need to extend the opening hours of registration centres, but nothing is confirmed. They will work the normal hours they have worked when they come back from the public holiday."
The centres are open Sunday to Thursday from 7.30am to 8.30pm, with staff covering two shifts, and Saturday from 7.30am to 2.30pm. Eida said about 600,000 expatriate professionals without cards would not be fined until 2010. But they have been told they would not have access to some government services, including elements of health care, after the deadline. So far 710,000 individuals have registered for their ID cards: 595,000 Emiratis; 107,000 expatriates on resident visas; and 8,000 citizens of other GCC countries.
In a late push to get all Emiratis registered before the deadline, Eida will simplify the process for single parents by scrapping the need to have family books, which contain original documents relating to the births, deaths and marriages. "Emirati single parents have had problems getting the family book and other timely documents, which we had as mandatory requirements to obtain an ID card, but we are exempting single parents' need to have the original," Mr al Qasemi said.
"What they have to do now is to authenticate current ID copies with the Department of Naturalisation and Residency." According to Eida, there are slightly fewer than 825,000 Emiratis in the UAE. Fifty thousand others are in prison, hospitals, studying or working abroad. "This leaves us with around 100,000 Emiratis that we don't know who they are or where they are, but government departments are working together to get the statistics," Mr al Qasemi said.
He said Emiratis could be exempted from the deadline. "This all depends on what the Cabinet's decision is and we are working on it but there could be the chance of letting people register abroad," Mr al Qasemi said. "There have been centres that have not had that many applications. There are plenty of places for people to register, so we are not panicking." email@example.com