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Jamaica introduces new immigration card next Monday

Observer Reporter

Thursday, October 21, 2004    

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JAMAICA has standardised its immigration card in keeping with those used by most countries.

Come next Monday, all persons travelling to and from Jamaica will be required to complete a new immigration form that will feature, among other things, text in both English and Spanish. The new immigration card will be used for both arrival and departure records.

According to director of immigration Leighton Wilson, the new forms will not have the jargons "ports of disembarkation and embarkation", used on the present immigration card, but which, he said, many travellers did not understand.

In addition, Wilson said the new immigration card has writing blocks and answer boxes, which should force travellers to write more legibly.

"It is a challenge when persons do not fill out the forms properly," Wilson told the Observer. "Sometimes the writing is so poor the officers have to be asking questions so the new format benefits both the travellers and the officers," he said.

According to Wilson, Jamaican, British and American citizens account for 90 per cent of travellers through Jamaica's ports but the Immigration Department took a decision to include Spanish text on the new forms following a request from the Jamaica Tourist Board.

At the same time, Wilson said the new form is much cheaper to print, compared to the carbonised one it is replacing, and he said it also boasts properties for quick scanning and easy retrieval.

"For example if there are requests for verification of a person's movement, the card is already scanned and stored in an electronic database so it eliminates the task of having to manually retrieve them," Wilson noted.

Just two months ago the government introduced a new, multi-million dollar computerised passport and immigration tracking system, which officials say will enhance the country's border controls.

The system records and stores visitors' arrival and departure information, thereby enabling immigration officers to better track the movement of criminals as well as visitors who may have overstayed their time in the island.

It also means that both incoming and outgoing passengers will be checked at the ports.

But yesterday, Wilson said that system had little to do with the revising of the immigration forms.

"It's not a change because of the new system, it's just a way of enhancing the immigration process," he told the Observer.

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