Why Malawi's National IDs have expiry dates

Malawi national ID

Malawi is the last country in the southern part of Africa to register its citizens and issue national identity cards. 

However, the delay could be a blessing in disguise since Malawi issued an identity card which is modern, a smart card and with a memory chip.

The primary purpose of the identity card is to positively identify bonafide citizens and resident foreigners aged 16 and above.

Other than identification, national IDs also assist government in enhancing service delivery such as access to financial services; social support services that include subsidised fertiliser, free health services; disaster management and response. 

In simpler terms, the national ID provides for: One ID - One person - One unique number, but multiple purposes and does not provide citizenship.

For the Malawi national ID to be linked with services other than identification, an expiry date is necessary and mandatory.

It is important to note that according to Document 9303 of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards on Machine Readable Documents, an “expiry date” is not just a required field but compulsory.

Since Malawi is issuing a modern national ID it is necessary to align it with international standards.

“Common sense” is another reason why the Malawi national ID has an expiry date.

Since the card is issued at one’s 16th birthday and renewed after every 10 years, it is scientifically proven that such a period is long enough for one to change biometric features such as facial image. 

It is important therefore for Malawians to be renewing their national IDs after every 10 years to allow for fresh capture of their facial images.

The Malawi national ID also has an expiry date in order to allow for the renewal of the card material. Even with the best material, 10 years is a long time and in the course of time, the card is subjected to various hazards necessitating to loss of surface quality.

Having discussed the reasons of the expiry date, it is pertinent as well to explain the variations of the expiry dates even if people register on the same day.

The National Registration Bureau is trying as much as possible to avoid another national ID “mass registration”.

Malawians, be reminded that it took the Government of Malawi and development partners about US$50 million to conduct the “mass registration” exercise. 

We certainly cannot afford another one any time soon because it is a costly exercise.  In this regard, each national ID card is expiring on an individual’s 26th; 36th; 46th birthday respectively. 

This is in keeping with the fact that all individuals cannot be born on the same date and therefore, will have to renew their cards on different dates. It is important to note that citizenship does not expire but rather the card material.


*This article has been authored by the National Registration Bureau.

All comments and questions should be directed to the Bureau’s Public Relations Officer, Mr Norman Fulatira on 0999787718 and email norman.fulatira@malawi.gov.mw