ID cards

When you’re permanent resident in Hong Kong you’re expected to own a Hong Kong ID card (HKID). If you don’t hold an HKID card then you’re legally required to carry your passport with you on all occasions so that you can be identified. I’ve previously found this out when the pub/bar I was enjoying a drink in was rudely raided by the police who were less than impressed with my UK driving license as proof of ID. So, upon arriving back in September I booked myself an appointment to apply for an HKID card. The appointment was scheduled for 2:15 on Tuesday October 2nd. If you miss your scheduled time you have to rebook. Booking is a straightforward process and is handled online.

I downloaded the PDF file for application – fortunately only one page, and containing the expected questions: name, age, work, address, where you were born, length of stay etc. All fairly easy really. The process of applying for an HKID is remarkably efficient. You arrive at the office at the alotted time, queue up to be assigned a number, then wait whilst your number appears on a scoreboard directing you to a booth. Once at this booth, you handover your form, have your mugshot taken, and confirm that everything is fine with your application form with one of the immigration people. You then get passed into another queue, to wait for your number to appear to go to another booth, have another chat with another immigration who issues you a temporary ID, and gives you a date to collect your permanent HKID card.

Of course, being me this wasn’t as smooth as it could have been. At the first booth, in answer to the question “Is this part of England?” as he points at my place of birth (Larne, Northern Ireland) my repsonse is “Er, no, it’s part of the UK”. This is clearly not the answer he was expecting so we spend about a minute having establishing where I’m from, and why Northern Ireland isn’t part of England, but part of the UK… He hands my form back to me, and in the section of place of birth I’m told to add UK. Our next query comes from the fact that my current work visa expires in February, and the immigration official is pretty puzzled why I’m bothering applying for an HKID if I’m out of here in February. Explaining that I actually arrived in May, then brings about why I’ve left it until now to apply for an HKID card. So he gets the full story that I’ve passed on to what seems like hundredsof people already. He then lines me up in front of the camera and gives me a choice of one two mugshots to be on the ID card. (Mugshot as ever looking like a criminal. Although I believe in UK passport photos you are now no longer allowed to smile or be at a slight angle. Suits me fine – I’ve been doing photos like that for years…)

There is, however, one little detail I’ve omitted. At this first booth, you have to have both of your thumbs digitally scanned via a thumbprint reader. These digital thumbprints are then actually part of the ID card in a chip, and retained on record. I’m not for ID cards in the UK, and to be honest not entirely happy with the prospect of a digital identity here. But, it’s the law here, so no choice really…

On to the next booth, and before anything is discussed, I have to verfiy my identity by providing my thumbprints. Like I’m going to have miraculously changed or something? Once the next immigration officer (in a uniform unlike the last guy) is happy I’m who I say I am (or at least said I was to the last guy), we can proceed and he goes through some of the same questions as the last guy (“yes – this is my first time applying for a card thanks). FInally, he produces a printed out piece of paper with my earlier mugshot on it and a few other pieces of information. This, it appears, is my temporary ID ‘card’ and must be carried with my passport at all times. Of course… My permanent ID will be available in two weeks time and should only take 10 minutes to collect. Tuesday’s little adventure lasted the best part of two hours.

There were lots of people going through the system, so there’s obviously a high turnover of HKID cards. If you lose yours you have to pay for a new one, whereas the first one is free. Appointments booked online are typically booked at least two weeks in advance. As far as the process goes, it’s well worked out. They process you quickly and efficiently, and not charging for the card is definitely a good thing. However, now owning being about to own an actual ID card with various details and my thumbprints digitally embedded in it I’m still against them in principle, and hope they’re not introduced back in the UK. And let’s face it, if they come into the UK, the system will be less efficient and more expensive…

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2 Responses to “ID cards”

  1. Richard Says:

    One of the reasons why the office is busier than you might think is that the biometric card is still relatively new, so they are in the middle of an ongoing programme to replace all the old cards in circulation with new ones. Every 6 months, they nominate 2 years, and anyone born in either year has to turn in their existing card for a new one – and since they obviously don’t have the photo, biometric stuff, etc. on hand, everybody needs to go through the system.

  2. johniebg Says:

    Yes. Thre was something to be said about the system there. It was mechanical but efficient. Of course in the UK it will take twenty years to arrive at the same processes, having first gone through all the usual Brit dogma. It almost makes you wonder how we are not third world – it might even do us a bit of good for a while.

    Loved the opening few para’s. The which bit of england is NI was very funny. Good to see you tapping away. You moved in yet? Guess not as that is not a story we have heard.

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