Sunday, December 19, 2010

Less than ID-al

The Pythonesque attempts to introduce an Identity Card in the UAE seem to have entered a new and even more frustraneous phase.

In the good old days, the Punter downloaded an interactive application form from the Emirates Identity Authority website (the ‘application application’ as Mr McNabb calls it over at Fake Plastic Souks). Then the Punter filled in the form and printed it off. All the data was coded on the printout as a 2D barcode. Then the Punter, if he had any sense, turned up at the EIDA office in Umm Al Quwain at the crack of sparrow-fart and landed at the front of the queue.

The nice lady behind the counter would read the barcode into the System, ask the Punter to clarify anything that wasn’t 100% obvious from his application form, and then send the Punter for his mugshots and dabs. The ID card would then arrive by EmPost and remain unused for all eternity.

Clearly this method was always going to be a problem for the masses of expatriates who did not have access to a computer, a printer, or either English or Arabic written language.

Behold the new system: The Punter now has to go to an approved typing centre and pay a professional typist to deal with the application form. The next step in the challenge is to find a typing centre that is on the official list and actually is processing applications. Good luck with this one.

Unfortunately, (and there is always an ‘unfortunately’ when dealing with the EIDA, isn’t there?), the poor lambs at the EIDA cannot cope with 80,000 erroneous applications. Either the Punter wasn’t clear with the typing centre or else the approved typist who works in the approved typing centre is an incompetent klutz. He and his 79,999 colleagues. Because many errors relate to the Punters’ contact telephone numbers, it’s not possible to summon a Punter to the EIDA to ask for clarifications.

Let’s get this clear. With less than a fortnight to go before the deadline to obtain an ID card, the EIDA announces that it has problems dealing with incorrect applications, most of which have been created by its own agents. Stand by for a further clarification that, although the deadline is not extended, applications made after expiry of the deadline will be accepted. This would be the second time the deadline has not been moved in this way.

And another thing. How is a Punter supposed to renew his ID card when the old one expires because of a change in residence visa?

[IRONY]Replacing the card is simple enough.[/IRONY] According to the EIDA website, the Punter trundles along to an EIDA office with his old ID card, his new passport and visa, and the payment. All the personal data – name, education, religion, political allegiance, inside leg measurement, fingerprints, etc – is already coded and can simply be transferred electronically on to the new card. There’ll be a new mugshot of course, and new residence visa details.

But wait! You have to hand in your old ID card when your previous visa is cancelled! So that means all data is lost and you have to start the whole process from scratch. Unless, that is, you held on to your old ID card which now carries incorrect vital statistics.

The solution to this poster child for bad planning and incompetent mismanagement is blindingly obvious. As the ID card is irrevocably connected to the residence visa, both should be processed in the same, erm, process. “Here is your passport and new visa; here is your ID card.” Simples.

Of course, that would take three years to implement fully. But as residence visas are shortly to expire after two years rather than three, all expats could have ID cards before the end of 2012. Instead, connecting the visa and the ID card is apparently to be phased in after 2012, once everyone is sick to the eye-teeth with the whole fiasco.

Actually, the solution is simpler still. Expats already have acceptable proof of ID. It’s called a passport. Nobody seems to want to regard the ID card as official identification; believe me I’ve tried. A photocopy of passport and visa page solves all the problems other that the fundamental one of needing to create thousands of new jobs in an invented and superfluous Authority.

Edited 23 December to add...
Hilariously, in Thursday’s Gulf News, we learn of an additional requirement to turn up in national costume. The missive, doubtless invented on the spur of the moment by a bored EIDA employee, is probably to get locals to turn up in kandouras.

The letter of the law is much more amusing. Stand by for queues of folk clad in kimonos; shalwa khamees; barongs; lunghis; plaid shirts and ten-gallon hats; lederhosen; hats with corks. I anticipate the sight of native Americans and Norwegians queuing up as if they’re auditioning for the Village People.


1 comment:

Keefieboy said...

Goat, you made my point in your final paragraph: expats are identified up to the eyeballs already. It's only locals who don't have a passport (all four of them) that should need this thing.

I'm happy to note that the UK has dropped its own insanely expensive and impractical scheme.


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