New rules bring rush for ID cards

Crowds packed registration centres for a second day after ID cards became mandatory when applying for a driving licence.

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ABU DHABI // Crowds packed ID card registration centres for a second day yesterday as news spread that it is now mandatory for drivers who want to apply for a licence or register a vehicle. The surge in applications comes after the number of ID-card holders remained flat at 1.8 million for two months, despite a lengthy publicity campaign.

When the new rules came into effect on Sunday, massive queues began to build up at the registration centres. Some applicants had to wait for up to five hours. Dr Ali al Khouri, deputy head of the higher committee at the Emirates ID Authority, said: "We've been following the motivation approach in encouraging people to register, but that did not work, so now we have to follow enforcement procedures.

"The reason we went with the traffic department first is because it is one of the departments that everybody uses on a daily basis." Dr al Khouri said he hoped that making the cards mandatory for nearly every major transaction in the UAE, including banking, would encourage even more residents to sign up. By the end of the year, it will be mandatory for any naturalisation and residency paperwork, including visas.

He predicted that about 10,000 people a day would register once the card is needed for government transactions. The authority announced last autumn that residency permits, labour cards and the national ID card would be merged into one card - and a single application process - beginning in July. Other government departments will follow in making the cards mandatory, Dr al Khouri said, although he would not provide details or a time frame.

The most far-reaching step might be requiring bank customers to produce ID cards. Dr al Khoury said the banking sector would be among the bodies that benefit the most from national IDs, as bank security breaches pose a threat to all countries. "For example, someone can take a loan from the bank using a certain passport, and then leave the country and come back with a different passport," he said.

"But when we require him to present the ID card for banking services, there will be no multiple identity or fraud in that regard." The ID card requirements were first rolled out last year in the Northern Emirates. In November, the Ministry of Interior announced that Emiratis and expatriates in Ras al Khaimah, Ajman, Fujairah and Umm al Qaiwain would not be able to use licence and registration services without an ID card.

"We believe that to make the registration much more effective, we need to link it to services," Dr al Khouri said at the time. The link to the naturalisation and residency programme will begin with a new centre in Musaffah, which should open by the end of the year. After that, another centre will be built in the capital, near the Preventive Medicine Centres. The final step is to modify all 25 existing Preventive Medicine Centres to serve as registration centres as well.

A bigger registration centre, with 40 registration devices, will also be built in a "strategic" location in Abu Dhabi city, Dr al Khouri said. Five mobile registration centres will serve people in rural areas or those who find it difficult to go to a registration centre, such as those with special needs and the elderly. In March, the EIDA announced new strategies that were supposed to reduce the registration process to five minutes, but Dr al Khouri admitted yesterday that this had not happened.

"We have to be realistic, some employees are still new to this, and even after training it will take them a minimum of 10 minutes to process," he said.