Abu Dhabi: Bangladeshi expatriates in the UAE have been invited to apply for smart National Identity cards (NIDs), which should eventually allow them to cast overseas votes in the next national elections.

Speaking to Gulf News, AK Abdul Momen, Bangladeshi Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the Embassy launched the card application process in the capital on November 19.

“The NID was launched in Bangladesh in 2016, and we want to make them easily available to non-resident Bangladeshis so that they do not have to spend time processing the cards while on visits back home. The UAE is the first country where we have launched this application process,” Abdul Momen said.

“In essence, the cards contain biometric details and are embedded with microchips. They function akin to Emirates IDs, and are essential for Bangladeshis to carry out a vast number of transactions, including applying for a SIM card or opening a bank account. Eventually, they will allow expats to cast overseas votes for the national elections,” added Muhammad Imran, Bangladeshi Ambassador

The officials were speaking at the conclusion of a visit to the UAE by Bangladeshi prime minister, Shaikh Hasina Wajed.

NID cards

There are about 700,000 Bangladeshi expats living in the UAE at present, but they were unable to vote in the 2018 national elections. The next elections are due to be held in about five years.

Imran said Bangladeshi expats will soon be able to register their personal details on a dedicated portal. The information will be verified by officials in Bangladesh, and when there is a substantial number of residents who have applied from the UAE, a team will be sent to the UAE to capture biometric details.

“Previously, only the thumb and index finger prints were stored during ID issuance for Bangladeshis [aged 18 years and older]. For the new smart cards, we will need to collect prints of all 10 digits. Once all the details are collected, the cards will be issued in Bangladesh and sent over within a month,” the ambassador explained.

Deepening bilateral ties

Abdul Momen also spoke of deepening ties between the UAE and Bangladesh, referring to Hasina’s second visit to the UAE in one year. Her previous visit occurred nine months ago in February 2019. This time, she headed a Bangladeshi military delegation to the Dubai Airshow, meeting His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on its sidelines.

“The meetings proved very fruitful, and we’ve received indications about an easing of visa restrictions for Bangladeshi expats headed to the UAE. The discussions also focused on the setting up of a special economic zone, the Emirates Economic Zone, in Dhaka for a group of UAE-based investors, who include a number of shaikhs and Indian magnates,” Abdul Momen said.

Land will be allocated in the Bangladeshi capital for the economic zone by the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority, and investors have mentioned plans to set up a halal food processing factory, as well as facilities to train migrant workers.

“We hope to see these plans realised soon, as the economic zone will create a lot of jobs and further strengthen the ties between our nations,” the minister added.