DUBAI // Up to half of the expatriate professionals who were meant to have registered for a government identity card by the end of last month have still not done so. An estimated 400,000 white-collar expatriates, defined by the Emirates Identity Authority (Eida) as anyone with a university degree, were meant to have registered for the biometric ID card by February 28. That date was set when it became clear that tens of thousands would miss the original deadline of December 31, 2008.
Thamer al Qasemi, the planning director for Eida, yesterday said around 200,000 white-collar expatriates had applied for the card, although some would not get an appointment at one of the Eida registration centres until later this year. "The flow of registrations has improved - it has been a learning curve and we have learnt from what happened before," he said. "People are more committed now, and I think we can continue to register professionals as well as the category we have called forward at this stage. We had 90,000 people register in February, which is the highest number so far, and I think that is a sign that things are progressing well."
According to a schedule released in December, the Eida plans to register all expatriate residents for the cards in four groups, depending on their jobs. Since March 1, it has asked administrative workers in the private sector, including hotel employees, shop staff and secretaries, to register. On June 20, it will begin to register unskilled workers, including housemaids, fishermen, drivers and security guards, and then in October start registering the millions of unskilled construction workers in the UAE.
Expatriates have been warned that failure to register could result in access being denied to government services, including health care, and to their bank accounts, although government departments can use their discretion to continue offering services to residents without an ID card until the end of 2010. Emirati citizens, who have had more than a year to register, were supposed to have all received their cards by January 1 this year, although it was later announced they would not incur a fine for not having one until April 1. Failure to produce a card when requested after that date could result in a fine of up to Dh1,000 (US$272). Expatriates will not face fines until the end of 2010.
Mr al Qasemi said that around 750,000 citizens had registered so far. The Eida originally estimated there were about 825,000 Emiratis living in the UAE, meaning that around 75,000 would still need to register in the next three weeks if they were to avoid a fine. Mr al Qasemi has repeatedly warned that the figures used to estimate the population of the various categories were based on data from a number of government departments, and may not represent the true population of the UAE.
"This is part of the reason for introducing the population register, so the Government has access to accurate information about who is here," he said. However, he said he had little sympathy for Emirati citizens who were late in registering and who now ran the risk of being fined. "The locals who are coming forward now are considered to be less committed and in violation of the law," he said. "I don't see any reason to give them another extension."