ABU DHABI // Expatriate professionals now have until the end of next year to obtain their national ID card, according to the head of the programme. "Calm down, don't panic. Your deadline isn't until the end of 2010," Darwish al Zarouni, the director general of the Emirates Identity Authority (Eida), said on the sidelines of the Citizen ID Forum in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
While it was still recommended that non-national white-collar workers registered for an ID card before the Feb 28 deadline, Mr al Zarouni said they would not be denied access to government services if they did not. He said the decision had been taken to "make life easier" for those who had not registered, and that it was up to the individual when they applied, as long as they had obtained a card by the end of 2010.
Expatriate professionals had earlier been warned they could face problems with services such as obtaining a driver's licence, visiting a doctor or opening a bank account if they missed the deadline. There have been chaotic scenes at registration centres with some residents queuing overnight to get an appointment, concerned about the consequences of not getting one in time. On Eida's website, there are no appointments available anywhere in the UAE until several months after the Feb 28 deadline.
In October, expatriate professionals were told they had until Dec 31 to register or face fines and be denied access to services. That deadline was then pushed back to the end of February, with officials saying there would be no fines until 2010. "We've given professional expatriates a time of three months or four months to come and enrol," Mr al Zarouni said. "If this expatriate misses his time frame, we don't mind him coming to register during the next group's time frame."
Mr al Zarouni said residents might face a longer wait after the registration process is opened up to other groups. Administrative workers, including secretaries, translators, typists and shopkeepers, along with expatriates employed in the hotel, restaurant and tourism industries, are due to begin applying from March 1. "It's great news," said Hani Qassim, 32, a Canadian business consultant who has not yet tried to register. "I was expecting something like this because I've heard it's very difficult to schedule an appointment.
"I'm just leaving it until I have to. I'll wait until I hit a roadblock and then I'll get one." Jean Hariz, 27, a business development manager and Lebanese national, said he had been concerned about the December deadline but after that had been pushed back he had not worried. Mr Hariz said he was now waiting for his company to organise the ID card for him: "If it's necessary, then they will sort it out."
Also at the Citizen ID Forum yesterday was Abdelhafid Mordi, from Thales, a provider of security solutions that is working with Morocco to introduce ID cards. Mr Mordi said getting the population registered was one of the biggest challenges in introducing a national identity card. "It's something that's very difficult," he said. "It's not about technology, it's about logistics and communication. You can put down deadlines but are you sure they are going to be respected?
"You have to make sure that the population knows it's in their best interests. It has to be attractive to them. There needs to be motivation for them to get the new cards." email@example.com