Dubai: Residents are risking loss of passports and identity theft at busy typing centres in the rush to meet the May 31 deadline for Emirates ID registration.
"In all events, don't leave your passport at the typing centre to avoid possible loss," warns Emirates Identity Authority (Eida) on its website. However, many private centres authorised by the UAE government to fill in ID applications, refuse service unless residents hand in their passports, which have to be digitally scanned.
Receiving passports in advance of processing applications allows typing centres to add more clients to their list and work at their own pace later on - besides making more money as they charge Dh30 per application.
However, holding on to passports - for several days in many cases - means longer waiting lines for applicants already pressed for time under the looming deadline. The practice is also against the rules of Eida, which issues the ID card.
Residents complained virtually all typing centres in crowded neighbourhoods of Dubai and Sharjah demand they part with their passports.
During a random sweep this week, XPRESS found dozens of passports lying around haphazardly at typing centres in Safa, Satwa and Karama.
A worker at a typist near Mazaya Centre said on Sunday: "We've run out of space to keep passports so we're not taking any more for now. There's no place left to hide them if [Eida] inspectors drop in."
He suggested applicants make a ‘booking' the following day by submitting their passports before noon, which they would not see again for three days - the time it would take for the application to be completed. "Of course I cannot give you a receipt for the passport, that's illegal."
Another typist in Karama who had no applicants present in person at his office, scoffed when asked to process an application on the spot. "Get in line - you want to see the line?" he laughed as he pulled out a drawer crammed with passports.
"I'm getting non-stop calls from applicants asking ‘Is it done yet? Is it done yet?' The best I can do for you is take your passport now and call you tonight to let you know how long it'll take."
In Sharjah, a Russian applicant who ran out of patience while waiting for his application to go through was seen quarrelling with a typist who refused to return his passport in Al Taawun area.
"I cannot give back your passport now, Just wait, I'm busy," the typist said. One applicant said on condition of anonymity: "I had to give my passport to the typing centre, what else can I do? They say, ‘if you don't like it, you can find another place.' I give up, there's no time left."
Dubai expatriates whose visas expire after 2012 will be fined Dh20 per day (up to Dh1,000 maximum) if they fail to register for their Emirates ID card by May 31.
Eida adds on its website that "residents of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, with residencies expiring in 2012, will be required to enrol for the ID card along with renewing their residencies".
Earlier deadlines, which were eventually extended, had seen tempers fray at overrun typing centres. No grace period has been announced for current deadlines in place.
Details of the ID procedures are available online at eida.gov.a