LCQ4: Measures to cope with demand for replacement of identity cards
In reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council earlier on, the Government pointed out that as at March 3 this year, around 6.84 million identity (ID) card holders had had their ID cards replaced with new ones through the Territory-wide Identity Card Replacement Exercise, representing about 85 per cent of all Hong Kong residents who needed to have their ID cards replaced, and with the extended service hours arrangement being implemented by the Immigration Department (ImmD) at four Registration of Persons (ROP) Offices, a maximum number of 18 000 applications for documentation services could be processed per week. There are views pointing out that as there are still about 1.2 million ID card holders who have not had their ID cards replaced at present, the ImmD needs around 67 weeks (i.e. around one year and four months) at the earliest to complete all ID card replacement work. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the additional expenditure involved in the implementation of the extended service hours arrangement at four ROP offices; and
(2) given the keen demand of members of the public for the replacement of ID cards, the available appointment booking period of the ROP services appointment booking system has been extended to 96 working days, whether the ImmD will consider launching further measures to cope with the service demand, including extending the service hours of and implementing the arrangement of full-week service at ROP Offices, as well as increasing the number and manpower of ROP Offices; if so, of the additional manpower and expenditure involved as estimated by the authorities, and the relevant timetable (including the earliest time for launching the measures); if not, the reasons for that?
The Immigration Department (ImmD) launched the Territory-wide Identity Card Replacement Exercise (Replacement Exercise) on December 27, 2018 and set up nine Smart Identity Card Replacement Centres (SIDCCs) to provide identity (ID) card replacement services. All the SIDCCs ceased operation on March 4, 2023. During this period, around 6.84 million ID card holders had replaced for new ID cards through the Replacement Exercise, representing about 85 per cent of the Hong Kong residents who need to have their ID cards replaced. Together with the new arrivals, young people who have to apply for adult ID cards upon reaching the age of 18, children who need to apply for juvenile ID cards upon reaching the age of 11, persons whose ID cards have been lost, destroyed, damaged or defaced, persons who wish to amend the particulars printed on their ID cards, and holders of non-smart ID cards, the ImmD has issued more than 8 million new smart ID cards.
Since the nine SIDCCs set up under the Replacement Exercise ceased operation on March 4, 2023, from that day onwards, eligible members of the public who have yet to apply for ID card replacement should make applications at the Registration of Persons (ROP) Offices. Furthermore, many residents staying outside Hong Kong (including those who reached the age of 11 or 18 during the pandemic and need to register for ID cards) have not had the opportunity to return to Hong Kong to apply for ID card replacement in the past few years due to the pandemic. With the resumption of normal travel, they are now returning to Hong Kong for new ID card application. The above circumstances have resulted in tight appointment quota at various ROP Offices of the ImmD in recent months.
In view of the above, since March 6, 2023, the service hours of four designated ROP Offices (namely the Hong Kong Office, Kowloon Office, Kwun Tong Office and Tuen Mun Office) have been extended to 10pm such that residents who have yet to replace for new smart ID cards may continue to apply for ID cards in an orderly manner during the extended hours, i.e. from 4.30pm to 10pm on Mondays to Fridays and from 12.30pm to 10pm on Saturdays.
In response to the public demand for ID card replacement, starting from April 12, 2023, persons already in possession of Hong Kong identity cards reaching 11 or 18 years of age may make appointment booking for ID card replacement during the extended service hours of the above-mentioned four designated ROP Offices, on top of the booking during the normal ROP service hours of all six ROP Offices. In addition, the Hong Kong Office launched Special Service Days on April 5, 2023 (public holiday for Ching Ming Festival) and April 7, 2023 (the first day of the long Easter holidays) to allow members of the public to apply for ID cards.
To provide further convenience for members of the public to make appointment, starting from April 12, 2023, the available booking period of the ROP services has been extended from 24 working days to 96 working days. So far, appointments are still available for some time slots within the 96 working days. The ImmD has also added the function of "Enquiry to the booking status of Registration of Persons Offices" since April 27, 2023 to further enhance the online booking system for ID card application.
My consolidated reply to the Member's question is as follows:
Under normal circumstances, the six ROP Offices can process an average of about 10 000 ID card applications per week. To expedite the processing of ID card replacement applications from members of the public who have not yet replaced their ID cards, the ImmD has implemented extension of service hours arrangement in four ROP Offices with effect from March 6, 2023 through internal redeployment of resources and manpower, thereby increasing the overall processing capacity of ROP Offices by around 80 per cent, i.e. processing up to about 18 000 applications per week. Besides, the ImmD launched Special Service Days on two public holidays in April for members of the public to apply for ID cards.
The ImmD will continue to closely monitor the progress of ID card replacement and assess the demand for various types of ID card services, including replacement of old ID cards with new ones, new arrivals, applications for adult ID cards at the age of 18 or above, applications for juvenile ID cards at the age of 11 or above, replacement of ID cards due to loss, destruction, damage or defacement, change of ID registration particulars and replacement of non-smart ID cards, and timely consider whether to further review the service hours of ROP Offices, in light of the public demand for ID card replacement. If necessary, the HKSAR Government will allocate additional resources to further enhance the handling capacity of ID card replacement service so that the public can continue to replace their ID cards in an orderly manner.
In addition, I would like to stress that the existing old smart ID cards are still valid until a Gazette notice is published to declare its invalidity, even the replacement schedule has been overdue. The HKSAR Government will closely monitor the progress of ID card replacement before deciding when to declare the invalidation of old smart ID cards in the Gazette. Therefore, while I hope members of the public to replace their ID cards as soon as possible, those who have yet to replace their ID cards need not over worry about the invalidation of their old smart ID cards resulting in the failure of inbound and outbound travel.
Ends/Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Issued at HKT 17:28
Issued at HKT 17:28