Dozens of people are now flocking to the Registrar General’s Department seeking birth certificates and other documents in the wake of increased difficulties in applying for their passports.
Bahamians seeking to renew their e-passports are finding it much more difficult as they now have to provide certain documents that are proving to be onerous for some.
Sammy Penny, 19, has been trying to renew his e-passport since January.
On Monday, he stood outside the Registrar General’s Department with his mother after officials at the Passport Office told him he needed affidavits for both of his parents, who are Bahamians, as well as his father’s birth certificate.
“It’s so confusing,” he said. “It’s almost like they don’t know what they have.”
Penny said he has been to the Passport Office several times.
“They tell you one thing and when you got back there they send you for a next thing, so it’s been very bad,” he said.
“And then it [isn’t] organized. You have to wait outside to wait inside to get served. And it’s taking too long just to get a passport. I think it needs to be simpler, I think it needs to be more organized.
“It makes me wonder what these people are getting paid for sometimes.
“We’re supposed to be able to go there and get everything done just like that. It’s supposed to be almost like the [U.S.] or like any other first world country.
“I don’t like it.”
He insisted that employees at the office need to take more “pride” in their job, “be professional and efficient”.
Ashley Newton, a resident of Andros, said she travelled to the capital on Monday to apply for her e-passport for the first time.
However, Newton said she was shocked to find that the process was so inconvenient.
“It’s just a bunch of up and down and the things they tell you that you need on the paper, you [will] need more than just that,” she said.
“It’s very, very stressful and it’s taking up a lot of time and then the lines and stuff don’t move. It’s like when you think you’re there, you’re not.”
Acting Chief Passport Officer Siobhan Dean has said the process is not as seamless as it was before because of the inconsistencies in the information on the documents individuals are bringing in, as well as the lack of due diligence done with the e-passport system when it was initially launched in 2007.
Reportedly, Bahamians are being asked to bring in birth certificates of parents and grandparents in some instances. Some are also being asked to redo affidavits.
This was the case for one woman, who stood on the line in the registrar’s office trying to correct an affidavit.
This mother of three, who asked not to be named, said she has the handwritten passport and is applying for an e-passport for her and her kids.
“It wasn’t bad, it’s just that one little mistake they sent me back for and I feel that it wasn’t right,” she said.
She said she had already gone through a long process initially, but one technicality caused her more time and more money.
The mother of three said she simply doesn’t understand why she has to track down so much information if she already has a passport.
“I’ve been here for a week and they’re telling me I need this thing, then when I come back they’re telling me I need another thing, then I need my mother’s ID, it’s really frustrating,” she said.
She added, “They need to do better.”
However, unlike some, the process for Shirley Girling and her son, who is renewing an e-passport, has been a lot easier.
Girling said when her son went to do a rush application for an upcoming trip, he was asked to bring back two additional documents.
“Even before he got to the Passport Office he had contacted a gentlemen there before and it was a very smooth process,” Girling explained as she was leaving the department.
“He allowed him to go through and he was actually prepared to stand in the line for a long time…
“In fact, just parking, it has taken me approximately half an hour just to get the two documents that I needed at the general registrar, so that I was very happy with that.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the Passport Office’s online appointment system was discontinued.
“Visit the Passport Office for the renewal of your passport,” the ministry said in a statement.
Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield yesterday said a new online system may be up and running within the next two weeks.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications