The Ministry of Citizen-ship will be taking immigration services to regions Two and Seven in 2018, even as work to construct buildings to facilitate passport processing will commence in New Amsterdam and Linden as early as this weekend.
This was related by Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix during budget debate on Wednesday, when he also announced that by next year, the ministry will begin purchasing equipment to allow passports to be processed online.
The minister said that the ministry hopes to begin construction of immigration service buildings in Mabaruma (Region Two) and Bartica (Region Seven) by the end of next year.
Felix further stated that today he will be “turning the sod” in New Amsterdam as a contract has been awarded for the construction of the immigration building there, and a similar exercise is expected to take place not long after in Linden.
As of 2016, persons were able to apply to renew or replace passports twice weekly at the Guyana Police Force building in New Amsterdam and at the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) building in Linden. However, first time applicants were still required to conduct those transactions at the Georgetown office because the machinery to generate the machine-readable passports were only located there.
The ministry made the decision to decentralise passport services after an increase in applications resulted in extremely long lines, as persons traveled from outlying regions to access the passport office.
Felix also said that there is a proposal to upgrade passports to include a biometric chip and 64 pages.
Next year, he related, the ministry will begin purchasing equipment to allow online processing of passport applications.
Felix explained that prior to now, there was a barrier preventing this type of transaction as the platform required for such, PayPal, is not compatible locally. He noted, however, that that hurdle has been passed due to improvements in the telecommunications sector.
“…You have heard from Minister [Cathy] Hughes that there is a little issue with the PayPal system and that is why the online system is not here because the online system is joined to a PayPal system and it was pointless introducing online processing when the PayPal system would not have found compatibility with other systems here. But I am almost sure… that next year, online processing of passports—at least the equipment would be ordered,” Felix stated.