Passport Office Launches Online Scheduling System
NASSAU, The Bahamas – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration on Wednesday, December 1, 2010 officially launched its E-Calendar, an online application for Bahamians to apply for their E-passport and make an appointment for enrollment at the Passport Office.
Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance explained the process, which is aimed to drastically reduce the timeframe in which an E-passport or machine-readable passport, is processed and issued. It is part of The Bahamas Government Online Passport Office Initiative; applicants can log on to http://epassport.bahamas.gov.bs fill out the application and submit it to the Passport Office in New Providence.
“We are very proud of the work that has been done. We are now down to two weeks in terms of delivery of a passport. It is a great improvement that you can enroll in the privacy of your own home or on another island.”
Mr. Symoentte was the first to be issued an E-passport when it was introduced and implemented on December 4, 2007. Since then, approximately 120,000 passports have been issued. The Passport Office in New Providence is the only point of production.
However, Bahamians living around the world can enroll at one of the Foreign Missions in Washington, New York, Atlanta, China, Canada and London. The data is sent for production at the main office. Bastien Pratt, IT Systems Administrator for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said once the applicant logs on to the website, the applicant is guided through the steps in filling out the required fields.
This can be done on any PC or laptop and in the privacy of the applicant’s home. Karen Rolle, in charge of the online enrollment process said the applicant’s information is captured and printed on the passport application for enrollment. Personnel will register the applicant in the Passport E-Calendar System and the appointment will be marked tentative, which will be emailed to the applicant for conformation. It will be the responsibility of the applicant to reply via email, to the tentative appointment for confirmation.
“When they receive the email, they would then come to be enrolled within 10 – 15 minutes,” she said. Wayde Watson, Deputy National Coordinator for Information Technology at the Ministry of Finance said the system was developed as a solution to the long lines from early morning hours outside the Passport Office on Thompson Boulevard.
“This would give them an opportunity to make application for an E-passport and have it dealt with expeditiously, and to give them the facility to make an appointment similar to the solution used by the US Embassy,” he said.
Earlier this year the Ministry of Finance contracted Microsoft, which facilitated the development and implementation of the E-Calendar, under the auspices of the Bahamas Government Online initiatives. This contract is an estimated $50,000; separate and a part from the $12 million contract entered into with Endusa, a company out of Malaysia to set up the E-passport system. Mr. Symonette acknowledged Donald Cash, Undersecretary at the Passport Office and his team for working “very diligently” in processing and issuing the passports under the machine-readable system.
“We have been able to work out the kinks in the system. And able to deal with the backlog through the assistance of part time workers,” he said Although there is “no deadline” for the E-passport, however some governments and airlines are making it more difficult to travel with the manual passports Mr. Symonette said.
He encouraged Bahamians to take advantage of the relatively slow Christmas period and apply for their E-passport and use the online facility available. Mr. Cash too welcomed the new initiative, which he envisioned would alleviate the over crowding and speed up the process at the Passport Office. It would also allow Bahamians in the Family Islands to make their appointments without the inconvenience of travelling back and forth.
By Lindsay Thompson
Bahamas Information Services