The Central Immigration and Passport Office received over 1,000 applications for passports over the previous four days due largely to the “misconception” by applicants that the fee is slated to be increased, Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Dale Alves says.
Assistant Commissioner Alves told Stabroek News that in light of the drastic increase in passport applicants, officers at the Passport Office questioned several persons, who relayed to them that the sole reason for them applying was because they heard the price was going to increase from its current cost of $4,000 to $20,000 from May 1.
After lines of persons extending along the Camp Road outside of the passport office had attracted the public’s attention and the reason was rumoured to be the alleged increase in passport fees, Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix had said on Wednesday that there was no increase and refuted the claims that there would be.
In a release issued by the Ministry of the Presidency, Felix said that no decision has been taken either by the Government of Guyana or by Parliament to increase the fees and asserted that information being peddled to the contrary is false.
“I believe that has contributed to the large amount of persons coming but as far as I am aware the prices of passports will not be increased, at least not in the near future,” Alves said.
He noted that they have received more than a thousand applications over the course of the past four days and because of the large crowd on each they had been forced to extend their working hours.
While the normal working hours are from 7am to 5pm, for the previous four days they have had to work until 1pm because of the sheer number of applications. Alves said that he hopes that that rumours are dispelled so that the Office can resume its normal working hours.
Alves also pointed out that during a recent outreach to Berbice, Felix had indicated that shortly there will be a decentralisation of the applications process. “…So shortly there will be no need for this large amount of people coming to Central Immigration and they would be able to apply from various places around,” Alves said, while noting that the rumours brought people from the furthest ends of the country.
While it has been the largest crowd he has seen since he was assigned at the immigration office two years ago, Alves explained that the people have conducted themselves in an orderly fashion and they have not had any problems. “We have had support from A Division to control the crowd and we used some barriers to channel persons in areas where we want them to go and it has worked well,” he said, though he hoped that the rush for passports eases down in the coming days.