The UAE government has decided that all residents, both expat and Emirati, must obtain a National ID card by the end of December 2008. The ID card which is supposed to replace the current Labour card, medical card, e-gate and the expat residence visa costs 100AED per year for each year of the residence visa. At visa renewal time you have to go through the whole procedure again. Unfortunately in its wisdom, the ID authority has been placing information ads since June in Arabic language newspapers only, as "Arabic is the official language of the UAE" so the news has been rather late in reaching the expat community. While Arabic is the official language of the UAE, placing ads in English language papers wouldn't have been a bad idea given that the majority of expats here are likely to be able to read them.
Applications are supposed to be made via the ID authority website but the site has not been able to cope with the number of users so it continually crashes. Should you be one of the few who's successful in completing the online form and printing the form out, you are given an appointment to attend the application centre. A friend went through this a couple of weeks ago, she arrived early at the application centre, they told her the form she had filled out online was "wrong" as the bar codes had not printed out (this seems to be happening a lot) so she had to have her form typed out manually. Over to the typing centre where she had to take a ticket and wait: they were in the process of typing #13 and she was given number #81! Needless to say she would have been waiting for hours so she gave up and went back to work.
The authority, once it deigned to communicate in English, has announced that residents who fail to obtain their ID cards by the 31 December deadline, for whatever reason, will be unable to conduct any transactions with any government entities ie renewing a drivers licence or residence visa, tenancy etc but most worrying their bank accounts frozen until they obtain the card. As application appointments are now fully booked until February 2009, how is this going to work? Not that I doubt for a second that freezing of accounts couldn't happen, I've been here too long for that sort of naivety. My understanding is that if the authority was working at top speed, it can only process 7,000 ID applications per day and that it will take them 86 working days to process the number of pending applications.
So I wonder, does this mean that if you don't have the card by 31 December you're unable to leave the country?
Or is this a masterful plan to ensure that the skilled expat workforce, the engineers, project managers, architects etc don't leave the country during the current slump, never to return?