The Immigration and Passport Division, more commonly known as the Passport Office, is encouraging Jamaicans who still possess the old blue passports, to apply for renewal over the next 11 months. This will facilitate the phasing out of old passports to the new machine-readable passports, which were introduced in September 2001.
Senior Director of Immigration, Citizenship and Passport Services, Carol Charlton, told JIS News that while the Passport Office had a schedule to indicate when persons should take in their old passports, it was not mandatory, and Jamaicans would be able to travel on their old passports until the expiry date.”All passports are valid up to the period for which they were issued. We have passports that were issued under the old system, [which are valid] to 2011. They remain valid,” Miss Charlton emphasized. There are roughly 800,000 such passports.
Director of Passport Services, Hugh Thomas, outlined the schedule for the renewal of passports. Persons whose passports expire between 2005 and 2006, are being asked to apply for new passports as of April 30, 2004.
Samples of the new Jamaican passports, 300,000 of which have been issued since September 2001.
Those persons whose passports expire in either 2007 or 2008 should apply for renewal as of September 30, 2004, while persons whose passports expire in 2009 and 2010, are asked to go to the Passport Office in March 2005.
Mr. Thomas explained to JIS News that the purpose for scheduling the applications for new passports was to manage the changeover of passports in a controlled fashion. He also stressed that persons who missed their designated time to apply for new passports, could go to the Passport Office at a later date, and could continue to travel on the old document, until its date of expiration.
However, he pointed out that there were advantages to travelling with the new passport, as it allowed for ease at points of entry and also provided increased credibility for the owner.
Members of the public who are applying for the new passport, should take in original documents, as photocopies will not be accepted. Applicants are asked to take their birth certificate, and in the case of married women, a marriage certificate. “The documents must be the ones that have been issued by the Registrar General’s Department, but not necessarily the new format,” Miss Charlton told JIS News.
She said that although the applicants already had passports, it was important that the original documents be brought in, as an electronic database on each applicant was currently being established.Miss Charlton also made note of a special category of applicants – persons who were born abroad to Jamaican parents, who under the Constitution had an entitlement to Jamaican citizenship. “We must be satisfied before the application is entered into the system, that this person does have a legitimate claim to Jamaican citizenship.and there is a section in the Citizenship Unit, where this is done,” she added.
The cost of renewing passports is $2,500 for adults and $1,500 for minors – one day to 17 years old. The Senior Director is also appealing to the travelling public, to photocopy the data page, which is the front page of the new passport and place it in a safe place when travelling. This will help persons to be able to quote the number of the passport, in the case of theft or loss.
Miss Charlton told JIS News that the new passports were smaller in size, they possessed an electronically read bar code, and had the photograph scanned and covered in laminate, rather than pasted in the book. Also, passports are issued individually, therefore, neither young children nor spouses could travel on another person’s passport. There were also other confidential security features, she added.
Further, children’s passports would now be renewed every 5 years, because of the significant changes in the face of a child, from one day old to 15 years. Approximately 300,000 new passports have been issued since September 2001.
The change in passports comes against the background of new international standards, which have been developed and adopted by several countries over the last decade. The standard has been designed and established by the International Civil Aviation Organization, with the intention that all countries will comply with a specific size for the passport, which has certain security features, and which will enable them to be checked on readers at points of entry.