E-Passport Switch Progressing Smoothly
NASSAU, The Bahamas – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration the Hon. Brent Symonette said he is pleased with the operations of the Passport Office, since the introduction of the Machine Readable Passport or ePassport three years ago.
“The staff at the Passport Office should be complimented; they’ve done an excellent job,” he said.
Since December 4, 2007, the Passport Office has issued 126,000 passports and according to Mr. Symonette, “that is a great achievement.”
Bahamians anywhere in the world can apply for their passports through the Foreign Missions in Washington D.C. Atlanta, New York, Miami, Canada, the United Kingdom and China.
The Passport Office also recently launched its application online website to enable Bahamians to apply for their passports, and make an appointment through email for enrollment.
“I would strongly advise persons to use that system because it would free up the waiting time at the office, it would allow staff to pull the files,” he said. Mr. Symonette also addressed the question as to why applicants need to submit their birth certificates when renewing their passport.
“One of the things we are doing is updating our files to make sure we have the right birth certificate and the right documents on file. Some persons who have passports should not be in possession of a Bahamian passport,” Mr. Symonette said.
Meanwhile, another aspect to the ePassport programme is the introduction of the mobile unit, which travels throughout the country processing renewals and new passport applicants. The unit is headed to Exuma, and residents there are being urged to have all the necessary documents for processing.
To date, the unit has processed approximately 1,200 applicants. Once the applicants are enrolled and payment received, the application will go to the Data Entry Department for document scanning and then on to approval and production of the passport. This process takes 12 days to complete.
The Mobile Unit has visited Eleuthera, and on schedule are Exuma, Long Island and Andros. There are three members of the Mobile Unit Team – two Enrollment Officers and one IT Officer.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), of which The Bahamas is a member, has mandated that by 2010, all countries must begin issuing Machine Readable Passports or E-passports. The modern passport is being upgraded from a simple paper document to a more secure one – with biometrics features, including facial characteristics, and fingerprinting.
By Lindsay Thompson
Bahamas Information Services