Business

Need more passport pages? Too costly says PICA

Tell Claudienne

With Claudienne Edwards

Sunday, October 13, 2013    

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Dear Claudienne,

I hope you can help me bring to the attention of the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) that my current job involves so much travel to countries on the African and European continents that I used up all the pages in my previous passport six (6) years before it was due to expire. Given that each country's visa takes up one page and most are for single-entry visas (they make money that way), in a few years I will have to renew my passport well ahead of the expiry date.

I compete in the international workplace against nationalities such as US, British, French, Dutch, Spanish, among others, but without the mobility to go where the job takes me, I can be fired. These nationalities have a built-in advantage as some countries allow their citizens to hold two or even three passports to enable the businessmen and businesswomen to apply for visas from two countries simultaneously as well as request additional pages in their passports.

I have spoken to persons at the Jamaican High Commission in South Africa and they could not help. It takes six weeks to get a renewal of a passport that is handled in Kingston. Being without a passport for such a long period would cause difficulty. Two e-mails I sent to PICA about my predicament, using their website, were never even acknowledged. When I turned up in person at PICA to use their next-day service, I asked for extra pages to be put in the new passport and was laughed at before being told that "this is not our policy".

I am proud to be a holder of a Jamaican passport and have no desire to acquire a passport from another country, even though it would make my life a lot simpler. I have used the one I have to advertise our country. It is one notable pleasure to hear immigration officers say they have never seen a Jamaican passport until I presented mine. And it usually helps to start a conversation about Reggae, Bob Marley and our beloved Usain Bolt. But all this comes down to pursuing an international job against the background of Jamaican High Commissions and Embassies being scarce commodities -- only two on continental Africa, for example.

My financial livelihood and career prospects are under threat in an international setting, but I cannot seem to get PICA interested in offering a solution that, with a bit of enterprise, could provide extra funds for the Treasury. I hope you can take up this matter and get them to look seriously at serving a need that diaspora Jamaicans may benefit from.

With best regards,

CM

Dear CM

According to PICA, legislative change would be necessary for you to be issued with more than one passport. PICA told Tell Claudienne that if a client explained the urgency of their situation to the Jamaican High Commission, the mission would contact them and measures would be put in place to speed up the process to assist the client.

In regard to your complaint that your two e-mails to the PICA website were not acknowledged, the PICA CEO apologised and said that an investigation would be done.

We forwarded your e-mail to PICA and they responded to your concerns as follows:

Dear CM

"Thank you for bringing to our attention the special need that you have for either more pages in your Jamaican passport or for multiple Jamaican passports to facilitate frequent travel for business. We are heartened by your preference in using the Jamaican passport not only for travel, but as a means of promoting our country in the way that you do. We have recognised that business persons such as yourself utilise passports much faster than other persons who use it primarily for identification or travel on vacation. Some persons who travel frequently have suggested that we increase the pages in the passport. Currently, the adult passport has 48 pages and is valid for 10 years. This is the standard number of pages in most adult passports, compared to 32 pages in the passports for children which are valid for five years. In fact, in some jurisdictions, the adult passport has fewer than 48 pages and are valid for only five years.

"We have recently explored the feasibility of introducing a passport with more pages for persons who travel more frequently, and our preliminary research so far suggests that the number of persons in this category is quite small, relative to the number of passports that we issue per year. The relative cost of producing a passport with more pages is therefore not economically feasible at this time. The suggestion to issue multiple passports to one person is noted, and will be taken into account as we continue to listen to the needs of our customers whilst adhering to international standards and best practices.

"We encourage our customers who have special needs such as the urgent replacement of a passport whilst overseas, to advise the Jamaican Consulate at the time of applying. In such cases, we do treat with emergencies and other urgent situations in a shorter time, where possible.

We welcome your feedback and apologise for any inconvenience experienced in communicating with us, as we work to introduce service improvements such as the next-day service for passports that you used on your last visit to our office in Kingston.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for any further assistance.

Have a problem with a store, utility, a company: telephone 936-9436 or write to: Tell Claudienne c/o Sunday Finance, Jamaica Observer, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5; or e-mail: edwardsc@jamaicaobserver.com. Please include a contact phone number.

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