To start with, NID services will soon be rolled out in five or six countries, including Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and the UK
All Bangladeshi expatriates living abroad will eventually be able to cast their votes in general elections from overseas, as the country’s Election Commission plans to issue National Identity (NID) cards to Bangladeshi expatriates in at least 40 countries over the next five years.
To start with, NID services will soon be rolled out in five or six countries, including Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and the UK, a top official said.
"We will go to the 40 largest host countries of expatriates in phases over the next five years. We will initially start NID services in 5-6 countries,” Brig Gen Saidul Islam, director general of the EC’s National Identity Registration Wing, told UNB.
To apply for an NID card, expatriates will need to attach six documents with the application form. Among them, copies of their passport and dual citizenship certificate or approval letter from the Bangladesh Home Ministry are the most important.
A copy of the passport of another Bangladeshi expatriate identifying the applicant as a Bangladeshi, the statement of a blood relation living in Bangladesh with name, mobile number and NID card copy, will also be required.
Furthermore, a declaration from the applicant that they are not registered in electoral rolls anywhere in Bangladesh, and a certificate from the local Bangladeshi mission are needed.
During the pre-Covid-19 period, the EC had started online registration of Bangladeshi expatriates in four countries -- Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the UK -- after CEC KM Nurul Huda and Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed jointly inaugurated the overseas voter registration program in Malaysia last November.
A total of 738 expatriates from the four countries also applied for NID cards before the Covid-19 pandemic. Among them, 530 online applications came from the UAE, 121 from the UK, 48 from Malaysia and 39 from Saudi Arabia.
The commission sent the applications to the respective upazila or thana election offices to complete the verification process of the expatriates. However, the EC could not send technical teams to the four countries to collect biometrics of the applicants due to the pandemic.
Now, the EC is ready to send its technical teams to the four countries and also to Kuwait to collect biometrics for rendering NID services to expatriates, said the head of the NID Registration Wing.
"The Commission will soon decide if fees are to be charged for the NID services abroad. If yes, the Commission will also fix its rate," added Brig Gen Saidul Islam.
He said when the EC went to four countries to open online portals to render the NID services, the expatriates had asked them to impose fees to maintain better services.
The plan for the introduction of the NID services in the 40 countries has also been incorporated in the Development Project Proforma of the Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA)-II, as the tenure of the ongoing IDEA project is going to end next December, said an EC official.
In 2008, the Election Commission headed by ATM Shamsul Huda prepared electoral rolls with photographs and provided laminated NID cards to the voters. In 2016, the EC headed by Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad started providing smart NID cards to the voters. Now, 137 agencies are availing the services from the NID database to ascertain one's identity.