The Immigration Department announced that its planned exercise to replace the identity cards of all Hong Kong residents with more advanced smart cards will kick off in late December.
At a press conference Thursday to detail the territory-wide identity card replacement program, which is estimated to last about four years, an Immigration Department official said the new cards will be rolled out in phases based on age groups.
Chan Tin-chee, assistant director at the department’s identity card division, said existing smart Hong Kong Identity Card (HKIC) holders will be invited to one of the nine newly established Smart Identity Card Replacement Centres (SIDCCs) in phases, in accordance with their year of birth, to get their ID cards replaced free of charge within specified periods.
Under the exercise, members of the immigration service, police officers and labor inspectors will be the first group of people to have their identity cards replaced from Dec 27 so as to allow them to get familiar with the features of the new cards and help them in their fight against illegal immigration and employment.
The chief executive, members of the Executive Council and the Legislative Council, and principal officials are also offered the option to apply for the new smart HKICs at the same stage, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports..
The next group to be called will be HKIC holders born in 1985 or 1986. They will be invited to replace their cards between January 21 and March 30 next year, followed by those born in 1968 or 1969.
According to Chan, the two groups of people are arranged to go first after the department considered duration of their existing cards issued, their frequency of crossing the border and population distribution.
People born in 1985 or 1986 have held the existing smart HKIC longest than any other age groups. Citizens born in the 1968 or 1969 are also among the earliest groups issued with their identity cards in a previous replacement exercise in the past.
Both the groups have also crossed the border the most frequently since the last identity card replacement exercise was conducted in 2003.
To make the replacement exercise more convenient to the elderly, the department will introduce two new facilitation measures.
One is that the HKIC holders who are invited under the elderly age groups may bring along two family members or friends aged 65 or above (born in 1954 or before) to replace their smart HKICs together during the same visit, so that these elderly people need not go to the SIDCCs separately by themselves when their respective age groups are called up.
The other is that an on-site identity card replacement service will be introduced for the first time at specified residential care homes for elderly people and persons with disabilities.
Starting from Oct. 29, members of the public may make appointments and prefill forms on the Internet before visiting Registration of Persons (ROP) Offices or the SIDCCs, so that they may save queuing time and enjoy a faster registration process. Mobile application of the Immigration Department will start from Nov. 26.
Furthermore, self-service registration kiosks and self-service collection kiosks will be installed at all the SIDCCs to provide more convenient services to the public.
Chan warned that people who don’t have a valid reason for failing to replace their cards within a specific time period will face a fine.
If they deliberately don’t apply to have their existing cards replaced with a new one, they will, upon conviction, face a fine up to HK$5,000.
If identity card holders are not in Hong Kong during the replacement phase for their age group, they can apply for their new smart identity card within 30 days of their return to Hong Kong.
Starting from Nov. 26, those who apply for an HKIC at any ROP Office will receive the new smart cards, according to the immigration authority.
Such applicants include those who need to apply for a juvenile identity card upon reaching the age of 11; people who have to apply for an adult identity card upon reaching the age of 18; new arrivals; those whose identity cards have been lost, destroyed, damaged or defaced; and people wishing to amend the particulars on their identity cards.
The new smart cards being rolled out come with better security features and a more advanced embedded computer chip, according to RTHK.
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