About 8.8 million Hong Kong residents will have their identity cards replaced with new smart ones from December 27, the immigration authority announced on Thursday.
The replacement will be carried out in phases, with law enforcement and government officials being called up first.
The next round will see residents born in 1985 or 1986 have their cards replaced between January 21 and March 30 next year. They were the first group to receive the existing cards in the last round of replacement exercise in 2003 – meaning their cards are the most vulnerable.
Residents can make an appointment online and fill the form in advance from October 29.
The replacement programme is expected to be completed in four years. Card holders will be called according to their year of birth.
The authority warned those who failed to show up within the designated period without a valid reason would be deemed to be breaking the law, risking a maximum fine of HK$5,000 (US$638).
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“Card holders who are absent from Hong Kong 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,” said Chan Tin-chee, the department’s assistant director who is in charge of personal documentation.
“Otherwise, they will have to explain why they cannot honour the replacement schedule. We will make decisions on a case-by-case basis.”
Between 2015 and 2017, seven people were fined up to HK$2,000 for violating related regulations.
Chan said the chief executive, immigration staff, police officers, labour inspectors, principal government officials, lawmakers and Executive Council members would have their cards replaced first. The goal is to familiarise them with the new smart cards for the execution of their duties and help in the review of the workflow and operations.
The Immigration Department has set up nine replacement centres across the city, equipped with self-service registration and collection kiosks; these will be put into service on December 27.
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Chan said it would take around 30 minutes to register at the self-service kiosk for the new smart ID card instead of going through traditional manual processing at counters.
At the kiosk, an applicant only needs to insert his or her existing ID card, verify two fingerprints and then input or verify the application data. The machine will then print out a form so the applicant can move on to taking a photo.
“For the photo, applicants can choose the one they are happy with,” Chan said.
Chan advised applicants to avoid heavy make-up and to wear a dark-coloured top with a collar, so as to make the face stand out. Wearing glasses is permitted, he added, but frames should not cover the eyes.
He estimated it would take around 10 working days to process the card, which will be replaced free of charge.
Card holders who are absent from Hong Kong 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
Chan Tin-chee, Immigration Department
Residents have the option of making an appointment and filling out the form in advance using an official smartphone app, to be launched on November 26.
Applicants can also bring with them two people aged 65 or over to replace their cards, meaning senior citizens do not need to wait until they are called in 2022.
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Individuals, including those newly arrived to the city, who apply for an ID card from November 26 will receive a new smart card, as will those who apply to replace a lost or damaged card, or juvenile or adult ID cards for holders who have reached the age of 11 or 18.
The existing cards, issued between 2003 and 2007, have already exceeded their optimum 10-year serviceable lifespan, meaning they will gradually become more susceptible to damage and malfunction.
The next-generation card features enhanced security, built-in radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and higher-resolution photographs to support facial recognition.
The new smart card is pink, light blue and light green in colour, with a photo of the card holder on the left and a small stereo laser image of the portrait on the right.
It will feature a new see-through window bearing the card number in the top right-hand corner. An image of the Hong Kong skyline will appear when the back of the card is examined under ultraviolet light.
The card will come with a hologram with wave and 3D effects and a multi-patterned background. Other security features intended to make the card difficult to counterfeit include rainbow printing, microprinted text and ink with optically variable properties.
The RFID transmission technology will also improve security and data retrieval speeds.
The cards will support wireless technology and have expanded storage capacity for higher resolution photos to support facial recognition technology. This is intended to provide a platform for alternative biometric authentication on top of fingerprint verification.
Fingerprint templates will be upgraded for more secure and accurate identity verification.
The cards will also be more durable with the use of improved plastic, which will also allow for better quality printing.