Thursday, March 3, 2011

70 - Singapore's National Registration Identity Card

Singapore's National Registration Identity Card

The National Registration Identity Card (abbreviation: NRIC, or colloquially IC; is the identity document in use in Singapore. It is compulsory for all Singaporean citizens and permanent residents who are fifteen years of age and older to have their NRICs.

It is not compulsory for bearers to hold the card at all times, nor are they compelled by law to show their cards to police officers conducting regular screening while on patrol, for instance. Failure to show any form of identification, however, may allow the police to detain suspicious individuals until relevant identification could be produced subsequently either in person or by proxy.

The NRIC is also a required document for some government procedures, commercial transactions such as the opening of a bank account, or to gain entry to premises by surrendering or exchanging for an entry pass. Failure to produce the card may result in denied access to these premises or attainment of goods and services.

The National Registration Act of 1965 (last amendment in 2001) legislates the issuance and usage of NRICs. Section 7 indicates that all registered persons of the national registry are to be issued with the identity card.

Type and design
The NRIC comes in two main colour schemes, namely pink for citizens and blue for permanent residents (PR). Each card is identified by an NRIC number ("Identity Card Number"), which is a unique set of nine alpha-numerics given to each citizen or PR at birth registration or successful attainment of permanent residence status. These numbers are similar to that on birth certificates for citizens, and are automatically transferred to the NRIC at age 15 and above.

Also indicated on the front side of the card, are the holder's name, race, date of birth, sex, country of birth, and a colour photograph. On the back of the card is the NRIC number and its bar code, a fingerprint, issue date of the card, and the holder's current residential address. The nationality of permanent residents is indicated on the card as well; this field is absent for citizens. Any change to the information on the card has to be reported to the authorities, or it could be considered an invalid identification card.

Until 29 September 2002, the NRIC indicated its holder's blood group. This information was subsequently removed due to the widespread availability of quick blood group tests that are conducted during medical emergencies. The blood group field still exists on the card, but is left blank.

Since 2008, Singapore started issuing a card, termed a "Visit Pass", similar in design with the NRIC to long-term pass holders (such as foreigners studying or working in Singapore), replacing the formerly issued laminated green cards. The Visit Pass is green in colour, uses the term "Foreign Identification Number" (FIN) instead of the NRIC number, as well as showing the nationality of the pass holder. The card includes a date of expiry, conditional on the card holder holding a valid passport. [2]

Privacy issues
For long, the NRIC number has used by both government and commercial organizations as an unambiguous and "tidy" identifier for Singaporeans. Full NRIC numbers have been listed to identify winners of lucky draws. It was possible to borrow books from the National Library Board simply by scanning the NRIC number, in the form of a barcode at self-service kiosks, without further authentication. This has led to complaints of the possibility of fraud and identity theft. Therefore, now when NRIC numbers are publicly displayed, only the last three digits and the letters are displayed. (The first three digits are not displayed as they easily give away a person's age.) [6]