With four days to go before the last deadline to register for an Emirates ID card in Dubai, applications have increased dramatically.
From Thursday, residents who have not registered will be fined Dh20 a day.
And so far this month, applications are 40 per cent up. "We are on track to obtain over half a million applications by the end of the month," said Dr Ali Al Khouri, the director general of Eida. "We will be able to handle all that comes our way and are not seeing delays at Emirates Authority centres."
Still, there were three-hour queues yesterday at one of Dubai's largest ID centres, Al Barsha registration centre, as hundreds of residents rushed to beat the deadline.
Cars were parked haphazardly around the centre as people waited their turn to give signatures and fingerprints and have their photograph taken.
"We've been waiting about half an hour and have no idea how long this will take," said Raheel Waheed, a 23-year-old Pakistani student who was renewing his card along with two friends. "I spoken to a few people inside and some say they have been waiting more than three hours."
He said that of the more than 25 counters at the centre only two or three were handling renewals. He said getting the card last year was easier, because everything could be done in one place.
"Now you have to go a specific approved typing centre before you can register. It's just made it more complicated."
Adding to his confusion was the queue ticketing system, which goes from one to 100 before restarting from one.
"You could have a number like 40 and then see that the number they are calling out is 55," said Mohammed Jawad, 21, a Pakistani student. "It gets very confusing if you're not paying attention."
Bharat Butaney, an Indian businessman, wanted to renew his card but was told he had to go to a typing centre first.
"So that's where I'm going now," he said. "I'm not too worried about the deadline. I think I'll be fine."
It was worse news for Mohammed Hassan, a Lebanese teacher, who, after waiting in line for 30 minutes, was told he needed more documents.
"Apparently I need a special form and also a medical certificate," he said. "I can only get that from the centre in Al Quoz. This is very frustrating, as I'm having to take time off work to do this.
"They should keep the opening hours longer so people can have more time and aren't rushed."
There were similar scenes a few weeks ago outside the Abu Dhabi main post office, with queues of up to five hours.
Then, the Eida director general said everything would be back to normal within two weeks.
The bottlenecks in Abu Dhabi do seem to have passed. "My friend came 10 days ago and had to wait for four hours, two of them outside in the sun, " said Mujammel Hoque, 28, a Bangladesh mechanic who was picking up his ID at the post office yesterday.
"The situation is much better now, I only had to wait 30 minutes to receive my number and not one second of it in the heat."
Still, one Emirates Post security guard, who asked to remain anonymous, pointed out some remaining flaws in the system. "Even though the lines are shorter, some people still have to wait for up to two hours," he said.
"When the lines are too long we close the post office to ID seekers and tell them to come back later."
With more than 1.5 million residents still not registered, the waits and frustration seem set to continue.
"The majority of unregistered are blue-collar workers with most professionals and families having already applied," said Dr Al Khouri.
He said Eida was in close communication with the labourers' companies, which were being sent texts to warn them of the imminent Dubai deadline.
"These deadlines are part of our drive to register as much of the population as we can," said Dr Al Khouri. "By the year's end we are hoping to have 90-95 per cent of the population registered."
* With additional reporting by Nadeem Hanif