10 questions about Hong Kong’s new smart identity card answered

Why you need to get it, for example, and how to look your best for the photo

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 November, 2017, 12:14pm

As the new Hong Kong smart identity card gets rolling this time next year, questions are bound to pop up as to why, when and what to do in the replacement process. Below are a few answers.

1. Why do I have to get a new smart identity card?

The optimum 10-year serviceable lifespan of the existing cardswill expire this year, meaning they will gradually become more susceptible to damage and malfunction. The new system addresses the obsolescence of hardware and software of the existing system to preclude having a large number of damaged cards in circulation. It also improves durability and upgrades the chip technology.

2. What are other functions of the smart card apart from immigration?

The smart card can be used to access the public library card service, leisure facilities bookings, the online health record sharing system and the subsidised e-health system.

As suggested by the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau as well as the Food and Health Bureau, the card also includes digital photograph and gender to facilitate facial recognition and avoid entry error.

But the immigration authority will lock the access to these two data items until proper consultation in the Legislative Council is made.

3. When will the card replacement exercise begin and how many people are affected?

The exercise will begin in the fourth quarter of next year and take four years to complete. It is estimated the exercise will affect about 8.8 million Hong Kong identity cards now in circulation.

4. Who will be called to replace the identity card first? What is the sequence?

Immigration staff, police officers, labour inspectors, principal government officials, lawmakers and Executive Council members will replace the cards first to allow them to get familiar with the new smart cards for the execution of their duties and to help in the review of the workflow and operations.

Other smart card holders will then be called up to have their cards replaced by phases according to year of birth.

But persons aged 65 or above (born in 1954 or earlier) are allowed to replace their cards at any time during the designated period of the exercise.

5. How do I get the new card?

Residents can make an appointment and fill the form in advance on the internet or through a mobile app. There will be nine card replacement centres across the city. Self-service registration and collection kiosks will also be set up at the centres. Immigration officials will announce this arrangement.

6. How does it work for the elderly and persons with disabilities who might not be able to visit a card replacement centre?

Immigration staff will visit 1,000 residential care homes to help the elderly and persons with disabilities replace their cards on site. It is estimated that 140,000 persons will be so helped. Group visits to the card replacement centres organised by NGOs will also be allowed to help the elderly and persons with disabilities who have limited mobility.

7. What should I do if I am not in Hong Kong when my age group is called for card replacement?

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

8. How many times will I be allowed to take the photo? Can I choose which photo to use?

Everyone is allowed to take more than one photo. And yes, you can choose the best one for the document.

9. I wear eyeglasses. Will I be allowed to wear them for the photo? How much make-up should I wear to get a nice photo?

Yes, wearing eyeglasses is permitted. Closer to the launch of the replacement exercise, the Immigration Department is expected to provide tips on how to take a good photo. But according to the existing guidelines, bespectacled residents are advised to wear non-reflective lenses for better results. It is unnecessary to wear make-up to look good. The authority also advises members of the public to get plenty of sleep beforehand to look fresh and lively for the photo.

10. Why is the city still using black and white photo on the identity card?

The photo will be added to a polycarbonate card with the use of laser engraving technology. But laser engraving in colour is not as mature a technology as black and white imaging, which guarantees better quality, security and durability. The new card is intended to last for 15 years.