By April the Department of Immigration would have spent $30 million on the complete digitization of the services it offers, Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson said yesterday.
The Department of Immigration launched its cashless platform in October last year and Johnson said by the end of March, applicants would be able to apply and pay for the renewal of long-term work permits and permits to reside all online.
He said by the end of June, applicants would be able to apply for the renewal of short-term work permits and residential spouse permits fully online. By the end of September, all other permits and application types will be onboarded online.
“We were able to look at the contract, $30 million by the end of April. We looked at the contract and there are certain things I can’t say because there are secrecy agreements involved. We met with the service provider and now we know by March, about 50 percent of our applications will be onboard, by June about 80 percent and by September all of our applications will be online,” he said during an appearance on Guardian Radio talk show “The Revolution”.
Other application types include homeowner permits, diplomatic IDs, government contract worker permits, permanent resident certificates, permanent residence cards, citizenship certificates, resident belonger permits and special permits.
The Minnis administration has made the digital transformation of The Bahamas a priority.
Last month the government rolled out its newest online portal for the Road Traffic Department and Registrar General’s Department, which allows for the renewal of driver’s licenses and the ability to obtain copies of birth certificates and marriage certificates online.
Johnson said these initiatives are important for improved ease of doing business, as well as to make processes for trade and financial services move faster.
“Fred Smith, QC said Elsworth you will face a serious pushback from the immigrant community. Well they celebrated the fact that they no longer have to come and bring their money. Every time persons are naturalized, one of the first places they go is the US Embassy and they have to upload their information,” he said.
“But for the ease of doing business, for trade and financial services and what we do as Bahamians that causes this process to go even quicker, you would want to be able to do what you do in Canada and/or Dubai for example, where you sit in the comfort of your home and you upload your applications and you pay online.”
Johnson has said the immigration department’s integrated management system is equipped to interface with the Treasury and provides efficiency and shorter wait times for processing; and reduces opportunities for corruption due to transactions being traceable.