x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Motorists get temporary ID card amnesty

Ministry of Interior decides that passports are good enough, at least for now, to obtain vehicle documents at the traffic department.

People obtain their ID cards at the Emirates Identity Authority registration centre in Al Barsha in Dubai.
People obtain their ID cards at the Emirates Identity Authority registration centre in Al Barsha in Dubai.

ABU DHABI // The Emirates Identity Authority has reversed its decision that anyone wanting to register a vehicle or obtain a driving licence must produce a national ID card. The decision was made to "relieve the panic" after residents crowded Emirates ID card registration centres following last week's announcement that ID cards would be required for traffic and licensing services starting this month.

Dr Ali al Khouri, the authority's acting executive manager, yesterday gave no indication as to how long the "amnesty" would be. He said: "We're just giving more time for people to finish their procedures related to the traffic and licencing department, until they actually get their ID cards." Although he confirmed that the 22 registration centres throughout the Emirates were capable of accommodating people who need cards urgently to sort out vehicle licencing and registration procedures, the authority had not expected the onslaught of applications by other residents.

"We wanted to clarify that we would have been able to accommodate all the numbers. The problem was that people were coming to apply for the ID card even if they didn't have any sort of urgent business," Dr al Khouri said. "It was just a panic issue. We were seeing that people were panicking for no reasons, coming for no reason." Residents last week queued outside the capital's Al Mushrif ID registration centre as early as 4am. Even centres in quieter regions such as Al Gharbia required police for crowd control.

"To relieve the panic right now, we said we would waive anything and give them some more time to get the ID card," Dr al Khouri said. The authority is reviewing the application process, he added, and would announce a streamlined system shortly. "We're having a new, more straightforward application form, which is going to sort out the problems we've got right now," he said. "It's going to be ready very soon. We're talking about a matter of weeks."

Although Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority had stated the Emirates ID card would not be compulsory for traffic and licencing activities, that had not the case in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Al Ain. Yesterday, the Traffic and Licensing Department on Muroor Road in the capital served a steady stream of residents registering for vehicles and applying for licences with passports and sufficient documents.

"There's no need for the ID card," a customer services representative said. "Our manager applied to [the Emirates Identification Authority] so the people can come here without the Emirates ID card. They will still need the card, but this is for a few days." Few applicants waiting yesterday at the Al Mushrif ID registration office - specifically so they could obtain driving licences - were aware of the temporary changes. Nor were agents with the authority's call centre.

Outside the Al Mushrif centre yesterday, tempers still boiled over as residents waiting for hours to process their cards jockeyed for space in queues and argued with security personnel. "The sun's rising. This is a hot day and the people are waiting and there's no facilities," said Nawfy Alawudeen, gesturing behind him, where nearly 100 men shared the shade of one tree. "This is my third time here waiting."

The 29-year-old Sri Lankan believed he needed to sort out his Emirates ID card to obtain a driving licence. He left when he learned the Traffic and Vehicle Licensing Department would help him even without the card. "They are accepting passports as enough? Really? That's good for me," he said. About 1.8 million residents have registered for the cards - roughly a quarter of the population. New residents who apply to work and live in the UAE must register separately with the Emirates ID authority. In March, Dr al Khouri said the authority intended to introduce new application procedures linking the visa registration and Emirates ID card processes.

@Email:mkwong@thenational.ae