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The following story appeared in the Nassau Guardian on 2 February 2023 by Jared Higgs:

 There are no discussions for Bahamians to be able to travel visa-free to the United States (US), according to US Chargé d’Affaires Usha Pitts.

Pitts was asked about the possibility after Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell called for Bahamians to be able to travel visa-free to the US at an event on Cat Island on Monday (6 February 2023).

“I keep telling them I have no idea why Bahamians need to have visas to go to the United States,” Mitchell said.

“I told them if the 400,000 of us decided to move to the states tomorrow, it wouldn’t be a blip on the map.”

However, Pitts said that isn’t up for discussion.

“No. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been any discussion of just getting rid of documents all together,” she said on the sidelines of an event at Police Headquarters yesterday.

“I think that would actually be kind of risky for both of our countries because remember, there are still bad elements out there and we still do want to maintain border security. So, I don’t think that’s recommended. I don’t think that’s been a discussion.”

Bahamians are allowed to travel to the US with just a clean police record if they depart from Lynden Pindling International Airport before US Customs and Border Patrol Pre-Clearance closes in the evening.

Bahamians entering the US from any other country need to have a US visa.

“That’s actually an incredible partnership,” Pitts said.

“There’s only one other country in the whole hemisphere where its citizens can travel visa-free to the United States. That’s Canada. So, it’s only The Bahamas and Canada that can travel to the United States on nothing but a police record.

“It’s actually very impressive … we don’t worry about Bahamians traveling to the United States and disappearing inside our borders. That is not our concern and so, I’m really pleased with that arrangement; I certainly wouldn’t criticize it.”

She added, “If a Bahamian is traveling from Mexico, or somewhere else, you have to get a visa.

“And I think that’s to be expected because you can’t expect Mexican immigration officials to evaluate a Bahamian police record; that just isn’t going to work.

“So, for right now, it only works if you are traveling directly from The Bahamas, but I think that makes perfect sense from a law enforcement perspective.

“You know, we still have to maintain control of our borders and we still have to know who is going in and out.”