Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Identify yourself

We're an innovative bunch in the UAE and we like to forge ahead with schemes that others have cast aside as a massive waste of money. By which I mean, at a mystical or mythical point in the future, residents of the UAE are going to be required to carry an Emirates ID card. This move has been in the pipeline for years but the deadlines for when it's going to become mandatory to carry one keep being moved back... and back... and back...

I know plenty of people in the Emirate of Dubai aren't bothering to get them because they think by the time the law is brought in making them mandatory, they'll be long gone, on to their next ex-pat assignment in a country, far, far away, or home to the motherland.  People are not super keen on the authorities having yet more documentation on them, including detailed fingerprints. We're a data protection sensitive bunch, us ex-pats, but no such laws exist to protect us in the UAE. 

Him indoors was made to get one by his company, presumably because they're a wee bit government owned so they're a bit stricter about such things.  I decided I may as well get one too because, frankly, I got the fear.  From the middle of last month, in neighbouring Abu Dhabi, they made it mandatory to have at least applied for your ID card if you wanted to renew your visa. I think such is the volume of people still entering Dubai, even post financial crash, it would be a nightmare to require such a thing as the backlogs would be horrendous, but it wouldn't surprise me if something similar came into force here. In addition, in future, Abu Dhabians will present their ID cards to receive medical treatment rather than carrying a separate medical insurance card.  It strikes me that if they make similar moves here, renewing your visa or obtaining medical treatment without the wretched card could be a right pain in the arse, particularly if there's a backlog of applications.

So, we applied for my card last month by filling in a form and taking my passport to a typing centre where they fill in the Arabic documents for you.  Then yesterday I went to the Department of Naturalisation and Residency to get my fingerprints done.  I haven't taken a picture of the department because it's forbidden to take pictures of government buildings but it's an odd looking low rise place on the side of Sheikh Zayed Road which looks a bit like a 1970s idea of a building of the future, ie, it's covered in gleaming silver panels. It's also a bizarre combination of the old and new Dubai.  Inside, there is a Gloria Jean's Coffee, symbolic of how Dubai, like everywhere else in the world, is overtaken by the desire to drink bucket-sized paper cups of sub-standard milk-based caffeine drinks and eat muffins the size of their heads, but outside there are little typing and photocopying centres in shack-like buildings as well as a "cafeteria".  A cafeteria in Dubai is basically a kebab or shwarma shack which also sells soft drinks or juices and various other fried items that can be wrapped up in pitta bread.   

I trooped into the main building looked around for a sign as I was promised by the slightly helpful man I had previously phoned to ask for directions. None to be had. So I asked the policeman sitting at the desk who directed me back out to the overflow building which had sinister signs including "investigative services, blacklisted visas, visa bans" etc.  I went and sat down in the women's only section of said building surrounded by forlorn looking blacklisted women from South Asia or the Philippines who had apparently come to plead their cases. 

It soon became apparent that I was in the wrong place when I asked one of the Emirati officials who had a sign saying "bank" in front of her, presumably because she was the one that collected the money for visa fees, she said: "Go back inside". Did she know where the correct office was? Er, no. Why would she? She only works there after all.

So I went back inside and asked a policeman at a different desk who sent me to the right place, another women only desk.  I took a ticket (they love that here, ticket taking, reminds me of a 1980s UK supermarket).  The woman doing the fingerprinting and photographs ambled off for an extended coffee break straight after I sat down so I looked up at the various widescreen televisions suspended from the ceilings for entertainment.  It's safe to say that the loop video of Sheikh Mohammed being shown round the spanking new Emirates ID facility got old pretty quick.

After the fingerprinting on a clever lasery looking panel thing, I was told I would receive a text message within a month to go and pick the Emirates ID card up from a post office. Which post office? Who knows? Why post office instead of sent directly to me? It's a mystery.  One more of the wonderful mysteries of the Emirates.

1 comment:

  1. Taking paper tickets always reminds me of going to get school shoes from Gordon Scott's in the Broadmarsh Centre! We used to fight like mad to be the one allowed to take the ticket.

    (hm, this has put me down by my blog name - it's Mary!)