BAHAMIANS are being encouraged to use a newly launched online application to apply for their passports and make an appointment through e-mail for enrolment.
“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,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Brent Symonette.
Since the introduction of machine readable passports and ePassports three years ago, the Passport Office in Nassau has issued 126,000 passports.
Mr Symonette said this number represents “a great achievement”.
“The staff at the Passport Office should be complimented; they’ve done an excellent job,” he said.
Bahamians anywhere in the world can apply for their passports through the Foreign Missions in Washington, DC, Atlanta, New York, Miami, Canada, the United Kingdom and China.
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,” he 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.
So far, the mobile unit has visited Eleuthera, and still on the itinerary are Exuma, Long Island and Andros. There are three members of the mobile unit team – two enrolment 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 ePassports.
The modern passport is being upgraded from a simple paper document to a more secure one – with biometrics features, including facial characteristics, and fingerprinting.