Changes in the passport application process

The Immigration Department enacted some new policies that take effect today. The early announcement of the changes in the passport application process caused quite a stir amongst the public, and yesterday, people poured into immigration offices in order to meet the deadline of the old process. Officials from the Immigration Department were guests on Rise and Shine this morning to talk about the new procedure. Maria Marin, the Acting Director of Immigration explained why the department opted for new policies in the passport application process.

Maria Marin – Acting Director of Immigration:   
vlcsnap-2013-03-01-20h20m46s23The whole purpose behind what is coming into effect today is to ensure and improve the security of the process itself. The whole objective behind it is two fold:  One is to ensure that those persons applying for a Belize passport are who they say they are.  Secondly, that you are indeed a Belizean.  When a Belizean presents a Belize passport, we want to ensure that this will be an irrefutable document of identity, and of proof of citizenship.

Previously, there was a standard application form; one for both adults and children applicants, but this has changed with the new policy. Deborah Estrada is the Port Commander.

Deborah Estrada – Port Commander:
We have a form that is specifically for adults 16 years and over, and for children under the age of 16 years-old.  In addition to the application form, we have the form for the declaration of the recommender.  In the case of adults, it’s form 3A and B; and for children, it’s form 4A and B.

Besides from the traditional forms, there is also a Form 5 for Belizeans who do not reside in the country and a Form 6 – for persons whose passports have been lost, stolen or damaged.

Deborah Estrada – Port Commander:
vlcsnap-2013-03-01-20h15m03s168We have Form 5, which is a declaration form of the applicant.  This one applies to Belizeans who are living abroad, and applying in those jurisdictions.  For those persons living abroad, they have only three options, of a registered medical practitioner, a registered legal practitioner, or a registered Minister of Religion.  We also have Form 6.  Form 6 is a declaration of lost, stolen, or mutilated Passport.  So this form would need to be filled, if a person lost his Passport, or if it was stolen or mutilated.

And while the application fee remains the same at $50, the department has put in place what is called a service charge. This allows for the quick delivery of passports.

Deborah Estrada – Port Commander:
Theservice charge is for 24 hours, you would need to pay $200 plus the cost of the passport. For 48 hours, it’s $100 plus the cost of the passport.  In either instance, it’s $100 in addition to the $50, or $30 if it’s a child.  The 3 to 5 day service is $50, in addition to the cost of the passport.  For the Emergency Passport you would have to provide us with proof of that emergency, be it medical emergency. For business, if you’re travelling, you’d present maybe your ticket, to show that you have an emergency, that you need to travel now. We will facilitate that process.

With this new system in effect, the department is taking a proactive approach against the distribution of fraudulent passports.

Deborah Estrada – Port Commander:
We have sought the support of the Attorney General’s Office, which is what has juristiction over the Justices of the Peace.  We also have implemented our own internal measures, where you are encouraged to bring an application form signed by a JP in your specific area, from your community. So we look at your address, and we look at the JP that is signing.  We have turned back individuals.  We have had to, because the security of the system is in question here, or the process is in question here.  And we have said, we’re sorry, but you need to get another JP to fill out your application form, and the JP needs to be from [your community].

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