JIS News

The Registrar General’s Department (RGD) has announced new measures to improve its service to overseas-based customers.
Dr. Patricia Holness, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the agency, told JIS News in a recent interview that the new measures, which came out of a recent outreach exercise in Canada and the United States, were designed to increase efficiency through the effective use of technology.
The outreach, conducted from July 12 to 24 sought to educate Jamaicans in North America about issues relating to application procedures for births, deaths and marriages, genealogical researches, deed polls, tourist registry weddings, and new innovation.
The CEO told JIS News that overseas-based customers would now be able to track the status of their applications through the RGD’s Online Query System, using their receipt numbers, which will be sent to them prior to the certificates requested. “Normally, we would accept payments and send receipts with the certified copies. Now, what we will do is send the receipts ahead of time by email, fax or telephone, so that they can use that receipt number to use our Online Query System”, she informed.
The RGD is also making provisions to accommodate online applications from its overseas customers by providing them with entry numbers, which will enable them to conduct their own searches.
According to the CEO, there were many persons who were desirous of using the online application system, but were either unaware of the concept of an entry number or had failed in their attempts because they had not been assigned an entry number.
“What we are going to do electronically, is to ask our team in Jamaica to provide the customer with an option that will ask us to search on their behalf, whenever the response says it (the application) cannot be processed without the entry number,” she explained.
In recent times, the RGD’s online search facility has moved from months to seconds with the agency having loaded over four million indices of vital events.
Between January to June of this year, the agency successfully processed 1,114 of 1,305 applications from overseas customers. The 191 unsatisfied applications were those for which additional information was needed, such as cause of death. Of the 238 applications received on the North American tour last month, the RGD has already successfully processed 180.
Additionally, the agency is looking forward to implementing more flexible payment options by accepting credit cards. “That’s not yet being finalized in Jamaica, but we are hoping to provide online payments as soon as possible within this quarter,” she noted.
The agency’s verification service will also be extended to the overseas community, whereby persons will be able to send their documents to the RGD for verification via consulates, missions and other overseas agencies.
The RGD is currently providing verification services to pension offices across the world to authenticate the dates of birth as well as other records submitted by Jamaicans to those agencies.
The CEO pointed to a case in which an attempt was made to falsify a birth certificate but the fraudulent document was easily identified by the RGD staff and the original record was provided.
“They (the agencies) are actually seeking to get a response while the person is in their presence, and often we say ‘fax us and we will respond’. We are working to ensure that the response is so immediate, resulting in a more effective relationship with our overseas customers,” Dr. Holness noted.
According to Dr. Holness, there were still a vast number of persons who were unaware of discrepancies in their records. “It is amazing that so many persons are still unaware that certificates could be fraudulent. In some areas, for example, in New Jersey, persons were knowing for the first time that our certificates are now being produced on security paper,” she pointed out.
In order to ensure continuity, the RGD conducted training sessions with staff and overseas consulates and missions, outlining how different cases should be handled. She emphasised that face to face contact with the customer was required to ensure greater efficiency, particularly in record updating services.
“In continuing the education process, we will be placing them on our mailing list. Some agencies such as the West Indian associations have asked us to send our brochures and newsletters because they would love to be able to publicize it in their meetings”, she said.
“We have decided to do a video of the session, which would also include areas of interest in that community. They would like to be able to use it at their functions to further assist fellow Jamaicans in that regard,” she added.
The CEO further noted that the RGD was examining the viability of assigning personnel overseas, particularly in Toronto, New York and Florida.
Meanwhile, the RGD is seeking to make its website: www.rgd.gov.jm as public as possible, given the fact that many persons now have access to the Internet.

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