JIS News

The Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, which will allow for the provision of improved service to the Jamaican Diaspora.
Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security, Senator Arthur Williams, made this announcement during his presentation in the State of the Nation Debate in Gordon House on July 25.
The Senator noted that the MoU “will result in the placement of desk officers from the Agency at our missions in New York, Washington, Miami, Toronto and in London. The persons to be placed have been selected, they have been trained, and they will take up their positions at the missions on September 1 this year.”
He further informed that PICA will soon be relocating its operations and corporate offices to more suitable accommodation in downtown Kingston. He noted that the Passport Unit of the Agency receives 77 per cent of all passport applications at the Constant Spring Road headquarters, which means that an average of 600 persons per day, are dealt with at that office. Therefore, he said the requirements of the office have outgrown this location.
He also informed that the Agency will be improving its facility in Montego Bay, and will be seeking to establish an additional location in Mandeville, in order to provide greater access to customers in Central Jamaica.
In the meantime, Senator Williams said that PICA will have two main priorities in terms of passport operations during this financial year. One will be the introduction of the CARICOM passport by January 2009, based on the Government of Jamaica’s commitment to CARICOM, and the other is to begin the process for the acquisition of a new passport production system.
“The current technology that we have, while state of the art when it was introduced in 2001, has been surpassed by the current technologies in the industry, which are being used to keep up with the advances in travel documents worldwide, and so, we must now improve our technology to keep in line with the industry standards. It may be that the Passport Production System and the Border Management System can be combined, and this is currently being examined in order to determine its feasibility,” Senator Williams said.
He noted too that the Immigration Unit of PICA, which focuses on border security issues and manages the arrival and departure of individuals, as well as the granting of visas and extensions of stay to non-Jamaicans, has been working to reduce the time that it takes to process passengers arriving or departing at the island’s two international airports.
“The improved physical layout of our airports and the technological systems employed have achieved a considerable reduction in the time it takes to deal with a passenger, which is now an average of three minutes from the time that the passenger first interacts with the Immigration Officer,” the Senator informed.
“The Immigration Unit will be ensuring that improved business operations, supported by the available information technology systems, in conjunction with the human element – the Immigration Officers, who have been well trained, will facilitate an even smoother and quicker processing of persons using our international airports,” he stated.
In terms of the Citizenship Unit, a pilot project was instituted recently to bring state-of-the-art technology into the citizenship process. The Unit has the responsibility for approving citizenship applications for persons who qualify by reason of descent, as well as other reasons. “Very shortly, the results of the pilot project will be evaluated and that evaluation will guide a full implementation of the appropriate technologies, and so reduce the processing time for citizenship applications, which admittedly, has been far too long,” Senator Williams said.
PICA is an Executive Agency of the Ministry of National Security, which came into existence on June1, 2007 through the merger of the Passport Office and the Immigration Service, as well as the Citizenship Section of the Ministry.