Overcrowding at Civil ID office continues

Public Authority for Civil Information (PACI) headquarters in South Surrah is being inundated by people trying to rectify mistakes in their civil ID. The number of visitors to the center have at times surged to well over 1,000 people standing in queues, or awaiting their turn outside the building.

Authorities at PACI have allocated more staff and technicians in a bid to accelerate the pace of work and overcome the huge crowds that often threatened to overwhelm the center’s ability to respond.

The chaos began after parliament amended the Foreigners Residence Law to permit the Ministry of Interior to stop stamping residency stickers in the passports of expatriates from 10 March of this year. Instead, foreigners would have all their residency details imprinted on their new civil ID cards.

During a press conference to announce the changes, Director-General of the Residency Affairs Department at the Ministry of Interior Brig Abdulqader Al-Shaaban said foreign residents in Kuwait will not be allowed to enter or leave the country unless they held a valid passport and a new civil ID card issued by PACI.

Director General of PACI Musaed Al-Assousi clarified that the new civil ID would be issued to expatriates only on expiry of their prevailing residency, so foreigners who have residence stickers stamped in their passports before the decision came into effect can continue to use the document to enter and exit the country.  According to the amended law, passports would be needed to stamp the entry and exit of individuals into the country, while the civil ID would be used to determine the residency status of expatriates.

Amendment to the Foreigners Residence Law is seen as being part of Kuwait’s ongoing process to upgrade services in various government departments and facilitate the transition to electronic services. The downside to this exercise in efficiency is that no one had considered the ineptitude of staff at immigration departments in the country. The result is the current rush being seen at PACI headquarters.

Many people receiving their new civil ID have found discrepancies in the details entered in their residency stamp and that in the new civil IDs, including in the printing of their names in Arabic and in English. Those who are illiterate, or unfortunate enough not to verify the details in both their passports and new civil ID at the time of issuance, only discover the consequence of any discrepancy when they arrive at the airport to travel abroad. Airport immigration authorities refuse to accept the variations in passport and civil ID details and refuse boarding to the unlucky traveler, who then has to return to PACI to rectify the mistakes.

Ministry of Interior and PACI are now understood to be taking action to address the anomaly caused by inept staff. The ministry of interior is understood to have begun implementing a new plan whereby the ministry will accept applications to rectify mistakes and coordinate with PACI to have the changes effected.

After receiving the correction request, the ministry will send it to a special team designated to rectify the errors and then send a message to the applicant’s phone to complete the transaction and proceed to PACI for the issuance of a new civil ID. The new procedures are expected to decrease the rush currently seen at PACI and ameliorate a situation that should not have arisen in the first place.