FRED MITCHELL AT ROTARY STATEMENT
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MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND IMMIGRATION
Poop Deck West Sandy Port
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Thank you for inviting me to come here today.
The topic of the day is passports and the issues relating thereto.
I will try to provide some basic information and then it there are any questions I will be happy to answer them.
I want to advise the public that the Ministry of Finance has now approved the provision of overtime work for the passport office for the month of August. We welcome this decision as it will help us to improve substantially the backlog of passport requests.
We again remind the public of the dedicated e mail address email@example.com for those who have received a date certain and that date has passed and they need to have their passports for urgent reasons.
We also remind the public that the fee for anyone else who has applied after 9th July 2015 and requires the passports within 48 hours of approval is 200 dollars plus the passport fee of 50 dollars. The service applies across the country and in all jurisdictions where there is a consulate.
We remind the public that the normal waiting time for passports is 12 weeks from the date of application.
We also remind the public that this is typically a time in South Florida when people break into vehicles which Bahamians use while shopping. Bahamans are advised that while they are on vacation and shopping do not leave your documents in vehicles while unattended. Also do not leave your goods in unattended cars as they become the target of thieves.
A passport is a valuable document and should be properly protected and guarded at all times.
If you lose two or more passports within a year there is a fee of 200 dollars to get a replacement.
I want to also foreshadow changes in the entry procedures for Canada which are to come into force next year. It appears that Bahamians who presently do not need visas to enter Canada will have to apply in advance through an electronic system to gain permission to get on a plane to fly to Canada. As of March of next year, Bahamians will no longer be able to fly at will to Canada. You will have to apply in advance get an approval and will be only be allowed to board the plane and enter Canada if you have that approval reference number.
This becomes mandatory as of 16 March next year.
All persons from visa exempt countries, like The Bahamas, will be required to apply for an (Electronic Travel Authority) eTA before entering Canada. Persons will have to apply online for an eTA with the vast majority of eTA applications to be auto-granted by an electronic system within minutes of submission. All eTA refusals will be made by an officer only. Persons refused an eTA would be persons with a criminal record and/or known by Canadian authorities (immigration, police etc). The Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) will provide a “board/no board” message to airlines prior to departure to Canada. Therefore, Bahamian nationals must apply for the eTA ahead of travelling to Canada.
This is part of the changing restraints on international travel and The Bahamas is looking at its own border procedures as a result for those persons who do not need visas to come to The Bahamas.
There is a new border management system that we are investing in and we hope that it will be rolled out over the next 18 months.
Consulates in all jurisdictions are able to assist in times of emergency.
The times they are a changing and we in our own country will adjust to the times. You will note therefore that the regimes are tightening as far as immigration entry into The Bahamas as well.
Thank you for having me here today.