|Authored by:||Betty Vedrine|
|Source:||Bahamas Information Services|
|Date:||June 11, 2020|
NASSAU, The Bahamas – During his contribution to the 2020-2021 Budget debate, June 9, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Darren Henfield stated considerable progress has been made at the Passport Office. Touting the leadership of Acting Chief Passport Officer, Ms. Siobhan Deane, he said that the Passport Office made admirable progress during 2019, particular in the area of public relations. This, he said, has been confirmed by the amount of correspondence received complimenting the agency.
“This is evident from the much improved missives of approbation the institution receives now on a daily basis,” said Minister Henfield. “Much effort has been made to familiarize the public with the new Q-Matic System, which lends to an easier, safe, fast and secure online application process, phase one of which – for the renewal of adult of e-Passports – was successfully launched on 9 December 2019. Indeed an historical milestone for the Ministry and by extension, the country.”
This, he said, has led to a marked improvement in the turnaround time for collection. He explained that on average, persons applying for passports at the New Providence and/or online could collect their documents within five to seven working days after applying. In addition, auxiliary services that may be required under extenuating and emergency circumstances in New Providence remain available to the public.
Further, he noted that applicants from the Family Islands and in other regions of the world could now receive their passports within ten to fourteen days following the application process. When using the expedited services, Family Island and elsewhere can receive their passports within 3-4 days and 5-7 days, respectively.
The Minister said that after a five-year interruption, passport services were resumed at the Beijing mission in 2019.
“The restoration of these services was well received by our students and Bahamians residing in this region. For the period of July 2019 to May 2020, the Passport Office has enrolled thirty one thousand, one hundred (31,100) applicants, produced thirty three thousand four (33,004) passports and issued thirty thousand seven hundred and thirty four (30,734) books. The revenue for this time period was one million, three hundred and sixty nine thousand, five hundred and twenty- five dollars (BD$1,369,525).”
He said that efforts are continual to finalize the logistical details to establish satellite Passport offices in Eleuthera, Inagua, Long Island and Exuma. He also pointed out that the Passport Office Mobile Services remains operational for all Family Islands.
“The necessary network infrastructure and equipment are in place for Inagua and Exuma to allow passport services to be offered’” he said “However, travel to these islands to install the equipment was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Speaking to the critical need to renew e-passports for minors online, he said that the Ministry is currently in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General to ascertain the necessary logistics related to this process.
He also discussed the effects of closure of the office due to the pandemic. “On 23 March 2020, the Passport Office was closed to the general public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff moved to work remotely and facilitated emergencies during this period. Staff are currently working on a rotational basis and the issuance section of the Passport Office is open to the public for the hours of 9am – 1pm to allow individuals to collect their passports only, the enrollment section of the office remains closed to the general public.”
Minister Henfield said that since re-opening, the issuance section of the office on 11 May, approximately 1,700 passports were collected. Additionally, the online unit is fully operational and requires minimal interaction with the public.
“In the interest of staff health and safety, plexi-glass will be installed by June 1 in the Passport Office in Grand Bahama and the office will resume gradual service that is similar to that of the New Providence office. Of note, passport services will resume in Abaco once the COVID-19 measures are lifted.”