Fines loom for 500,000 who still haven't applied for smart ID cards

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 April, 2007, 12:00am

Half a million Hongkongers have still not swapped their old identity cards for smart ID cards despite having had 31/2 years to do so.

If you're one of them, and you haven't got a good explanation - such as a long hospital stay or a spell in jail or overseas - you may face a fine.

The card-replacement scheme ended yesterday, but card-replacement centres will stay open until May 18 to allow people to collect their new cards. More than 5 million smart ID cards are understood to have been issued.

The acting director of the Immigration Department, Peh Yun-lu, said the replacement exercise had gone very smoothly. He urged residents who had not yet done so to apply for cards as soon as possible.

To encourage people to comply, immigration officers will ask residents arriving in or leaving Hong Kong for an explanation for why they missed the opportunity to get a new card.

People who fail to give a reasonable explanation may be prosecuted and, if convicted, will be liable to a fine of up to HK$5,000, Mr Peh said.

'Some of these people always stay in Hong Kong. Our officers will ask them to explain why they haven't applied for the new ID cards. Of course, it is justified in special circumstances, like being put under custody or being in hospital.'

The government won't say how many eligible residents missed the deadline to apply for new cards. But last month an Immigration Department official said no one had been prosecuted for not having one.

People wishing to apply for a smart ID card must now do so at the department's Registration of Persons Offices in Wan Chai, Cheung Sha Wan, Kwun Tong, Fo Tan and Yuen Long.

Mr Peh said most of the people who had not applied for new cards were elderly or had difficulty getting about, or were living overseas. Among the latter are students.

'There is no need for them to rush,' he said.

But people living overseas should apply for a new card within 30 days of returning to Hong Kong.

Old identity cards will become invalid in stages. The cards of people born between 1943 and 1969 have already become invalid.

Invalid ID cards will be repossessed by immigration officers at border crossings.