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Technology

New smart Hong Kong ID card application to take just 30 minutes, but take as long as you want for that photo

About 8.8 million existing cards to be replaced in city starting from end of year

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 February, 2018, 8:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 February, 2018, 11:42pm

Half an hour is all you need to register at a self-service kiosk for the new smart ID card instead of going through traditional manual processing at counters, Hong Kong immigration officials said on Tuesday.

As about 8.8 million existing cards are to be replaced starting from the fourth quarter of this year, the Immigration Department will set up nine replacement centres across the city to obtain the new ones.

Each centre will be equipped with up to 14 self-service kiosks – about 10 for registration and the rest for card collection.

Immigration Department director Erick Tsang Kwok-wai said members of the public could make an appointment and complete the application form online or through a mobile application.

At the kiosk, an applicant only needs to insert his or her existing ID card, verify two fingerprints and then input or verify application data. The machine will then print out a form so that the applicant can move on to taking a photo.

“We don’t need manpower to register fingerprints as it can be done at a self-service machine,” Tsang said. “Taking photographs is the only manual procedure. The processing time can be cut from an hour to 30 minutes. The waiting time can be vastly reduced.”

Everyone is allowed to take more than one photo until he or she is happy with it
Erick Tsang, Immigration Department

He added that it was unnecessary for those who wear eyeglasses to remove them for the photo unless their lenses are highly reflective.

“Everyone is allowed to take more than one photo until he or she is happy with it.”

He estimated it would take less than 10 working days for the card to be ready.

Once ready to collect, the applicant can get it by inserting the old one into a self-service collection machine, following identity verification by fingerprint and facial recognition.

The whole process only takes about a minute.

Tsang said the authority still needed time to iron out the exact locations for the nine card replacement centres.

At present, applicants must go through three immigration officers. Applicants need to obtain a number and an application form at a reception counter or inform the reception officer about their appointment if it was made online.

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When the applicant’s number is displayed in the waiting area, he or she proceeds to a designated registration booth and hands in the form and supporting documents to a registration officer. That officer examines the applicant’s eligibility, scans his or her thumbprints and takes photos. The applicant is then asked to return to a waiting area for an interview with an assessment officer.

The next-generation card features enhanced security, built-in RFID technology and a high-resolution photo to support facial recognition.

Chip technology is also better than before, and durability is higher as the new card is intended to last for 15 years.

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Smart card holders will be called up to have their cards replaced in phases based on the year of their birth. The exercise will take four years to complete.

Cards issued between 2003 and 2007 exceeded their optimal 10-year serviceable lifespan last year, meaning they would gradually become more susceptible to damage and malfunction.

Since the current identity card was issued in 2003, there were more than 64,000 cases of malfunctioning chips at the end of 2014.

Card holders who are absent from Hong Kong at the time their age group is called for ID card replacement can apply for a new one within 30 days of their return to the city.