By Clunis Devaney
NASSAU, Bahamas –The Government has amended the Passport Rules to provide for a technologically advanced e-Passport system, which will result in revised passport fees.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Brent Symonette said on Monday (December 17, 2007) in the House of Assembly that his Ministry, in an effort to recover some of the costs associated with the implementation and maintenance of the new state-of-the arts system, consulted with the Ministry of Finance on increased fees.
Subsequent to these consultations, Cabinet agreed to “a modest increase” in passport fees as follows:
(i) Children’s passport moves from $15 to $25
(ii) Frequent traveller’s passport increases from $60 to $100
(iii) Regular passport will increase from $30 to $50
(iv) A temporary passport will increase from $10 to $35
(v) Certificate of Identity will cost $25, from its current $20.
Minister Symonette said the fees are considered “reasonable” when compared to other countries where the fees range from $40 to $180.
The Deputy Prime Minister emphasized that the e-Passport system will be implemented in phases throughout the Family Islands and in The Bahamas’ Overseas Missions.
“During the phased implementation period,” he stated, “we will continue to issue the old passports at these locations until the new system becomes available.
“When fully implemented in mid-2008, it is anticipated that there will be a total of 19 passport stations, where persons will be able to apply for and collect their passports.
“We would wish the public to know that persons should continue to travel using their old passports until either their passport expires or they are duly notified otherwise, whichever comes first.”
Minister Symonette underscored that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has mandated that all member countries must be issuing machine Readable Passports by 2010.
He stressed that The Bahamas, by its e-Passport initiative, will be ICAO compliant.
The amended rules will provide for:
(1) Inclusion of “biometric data and features” meaning:
• Digitized finger prints;
• Machine-readable facial features;
• Machine-readable biographical data including signatures.
(2) Photographs that comply with the ICAO standards; and
(3) Revised Passport Fees Schedule.
The Minister reminded parliamentarians that, in December 2006, the Government signed a contract with Indusa Global, a Greenville, South Carolina-based information technology development and consulting firm, for $12.7 million to provide four systems:
• An e-Passport Issuance system;
• A machine readable Visa system;
• An e-identification issuance system (smart cards for holders of work permits, spousal permit, home owners residence permits); and
• A Border Control Management System.
Minister Symonette said the pilot of the e-Passport Issuance System was launched in New Providence on Wednesday, December 5, 2007.
The Passport Rules are also amended to provide for the old passport and e-Passport, to be issued concurrently, and a separate passport application in respect of each and every person.