Expat professionals given breathing space to get ID card after officials admitt that thousands will miss the original deadline.
New deadline for ID cards
DUBAI // Expatriate professionals have been given an additional two months to get an identity card after officials admitted that thousands will miss the original deadline. Registration centres have been overwhelmed in recent months after professionals, including anyone holding a university degree, were told they would not be able to access government services, including health care and possibly use of the banking system, without a card after Dec 31. A schedule released by the Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA) gives expatriate professionals and anyone working for the Government a new deadline of Feb 28 to register for the card. Administrative workers, including secretaries, translators, typists and shopkeepers, as well as expatriates employed in the hotel, restaurant and tourism industries, can start to apply from March 1. Thamer al Qasemi, the planning director of the EIDA, said the two extra months would allow an estimated 400,000 expatriate professionals time to register, and allow the authority to improve its own performance. "We wanted to give ourselves a breather to smooth things out before starting with the new category. We need to review and re-evaluate the process, the people and the training - a lot of training needs to be given to certain employees in certain areas after reviewing their performance. We started the review around a month back to understand how we were pushing the system to the limit and this two-month transition period will give us a chance to implement the results of that." However, he said the extra two months did not mean people could afford to be complacent. "Basically we are fixing the faults of the people who came at the last minute who have caused a lot of internal issues for us. From a strategic and planning point of view this move is not simple - there are a lot of things to be recalculated and thought through in terms of manpower and equipment in order to keep to the commitment to finish everybody by the end of 2010. This is a gesture to say we care for the customers, we are doing our best, but we also need the same thing from their side. "If there are people who delay the process and who don't care about supporting or contributing to the Government vision and initiatives that's fine - but eventually they will come in, one way or another. If they delay until they find out they are stopped from getting access to a service, or from being a student or getting a job, of course they will come forward and get the ID card then. Unfortunately, it will not be a very nice experience because they will not be given priority. There will be a maximum of one or two lines in each centre for those who did not come forward in time, so there will be longer waiting times. It will not be nice seeing educated people going through this knowing that more time was given to them - our advice is do not delay it and learn from what happened before." He also warned that expatriate professionals might find they cannot access some services without a card even before Feb 28, but said it was up to individual ministries and other agencies to decide when they would impose restrictions on people without the official ID. "The EIDA has already taken the decision not to hire anybody who does not have the ID card, and some ministries are doing the same thing, but we cannot speak for them. However, our plan and our schedule is there now and is clear, so if anybody would like to align their own plans with it they are welcome." Registration will be opened to unskilled workers who are not in the construction industry from June. The huge task of registering the estimated three million construction workers in the UAE will start in October and continue throughout 2010. Emirati citizens, who have had months to register, face Dh1,000 (US$272) fines if they do not have a card after Dec 31 this year, and that deadline has not changed. Expatriates will be fined only if they still do not have a card by the end of 2010.