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New Passports for Vincentians

New Passports for Vincentians

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Vincentians no longer have to stand in long lines or wait lengthy periods to get a Vincentian passport.

On Monday, June 20, the Immigration Department commissioned the new Machine-Readable Passport system, which comes into effect by July. {{more}}

The passport, issued in three categories, Diplomatic, Official and Ordinary, will be presented to its holder within seven days of application.

The Diplomatic version is identified by its burgundy red colour, the Official, green and the Ordinary in blue.

Governor General Sir Frederick Ballantyne and Lady Sally-Ann Ballantyne, Deputy Governor General Monica Dacon and Prime Minister Dr.Ralph Gonsalves and his wife Eloise Gonsalves were the first recipients of the new passports.

The Machine Readable Passports were produced by the Canadian Bank Note Company Limited of Canada at a cost of EC$4.3 million dollars. Government has so far paid EC$1.2 million dollars of three installments, which are expected to be made by February 1, 2007.

It was Sir Vincent Beache, minister of National Security who, faced with a crisis of passport racketeering, had championed the cause for the new passport to bring the situation under control.

Sir Vincent said the new system marks a major achievement for the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration in addressing a number of security issues.

He said that with the new system it would be almost impossible to tamper with the passports though admitting that no system was 100 per cent tamper proof.

Sir Vincent said that as a result of passport fraud that has been carried out with the current St.Vincent and the Grenadines passport, Vincentians had come under intense scrutiny by the international community. This was even more so than citizens of countries who have passports with updated features.

Sir Vincent outlined that the Machine Readable Passports would be equipped with a number of security features such as a bar code to store data, a photo, and a digitally impressionable signature. He disclosed that persons over the age of 18 applying for the new passport would be required to present a birth certificate as well as their National Identification Card and their National Insurance Services number.

As he addressed the launch of the new Machine-Readable Passport system, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said the new passports are part and parcel of an overall modernization process of services in St.Vincent and the Grenadines.

He said it was his administration’s desire to move to introduce Machine Readable Passports two years ago but the process was stalled as this country awaited CARICOM and the OECS to settle a passport issue.

St.Vincent and the Grenadines now becomes the first English-speaking Caribbean state to introduce the Machine Readable Passports, although Suriname was the first Caribbean country to introduce this type of travel document.

The Prime Minister disclosed that all countries are mandated to have Machine Readable Passports by 2010, adding that his government did not want to wait until that time to be scrambling to introduce such a Herculean system.

He said the United States has made it clear that it would not be waiting that long on countries which have not started to use the Machine Readable passports and has given a 2008 deadline.

Craig Bascombe, President of Canadian Bank Note Company Limited revealed that the relationship with St.Vincent and the Grenadines spans a period of over 20 years.

He stated that he and his staff considered themselves very privileged to be selected for the project and would show their competence.

Bascombe proudly stated that the security design of the new Vincentian passport would be a showpiece in the region.