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PICA, Customs launch online immigration form

Published:Friday | July 26, 2019 | 12:28 AMKarena Bennett - Business Reporter
Wynter

The Passport, Citizen and Immigration Agency, PICA, has partnered with the Jamaica Customs Agency to roll out an online version of the immigration and declaration form, the C5.

The system, which is expected to reduce the length of time it takes to process passengers and baggage at the island’s airports, is the culmination of roughly two years of planning and testing by the two agencies.

What’s more, C5 will aid the agencies in its border-management capabilities, while setting the tone for greater return visits from international guests through the enhanced customer service experience.

“About two or three years ago, the team at PICA visited Aruba after reading about a system they had called Happyflow. The aim was to critically look at that system to see how it dealt with processes, as it was being piloted by Aruba’s international airport,” PICA’s Director of Information, Communication and Technology, Keith Montaque, said during the launch of the product on Wednesday.

“We were very impressed by the demonstrations we saw in Aruba and we saw how could ­integrate those systems in Jamaica,” he said.

A pilot of C5 was conducted earlier this year which allowed the agencies to test its ­viability on roughly 5,000 arriving ­passengers. With the official rollout, ­passengers are now able to complete the form before travel, once they have booked their travel arrangements.

The information will be ­received by both PICA and Jamaica Customs in real time. While the agencies strive to be bold in the era of technology, manual processing of passengers and baggage will continue ­alongside the electronic system.

Like the manual immigration and customs declaration form, the online form will capture data, including personal and contact information, purpose of visit and the declaration of goods.

“A very good feature of this system is that it is very interactive; you don’t have to think too much,” said PICA CEO Andrew Wynter. “Once you click in one of the boxes you’ll see the options popping up, and we did that because we don’t want you be spending a lot of time of the form,” he said.

Use of the C5 will automatically remove the need for a passenger to print a receipt after using the kiosks at the airports. Once the passenger’s passport is processed by the kiosk, they will be notified that their information was already completed online.

The rollout of C5 will also result in passengers having limited contacts with customs and immigration officers.

“One of the concerns that we have had from staff is that this system might cause job losses, but we have assured them that no job cuts will take place. For the stations where we will no longer need officer, they will take up other functions throughout the agencies,” Montaque told the Financial Gleaner.

The development of the system is said to be a first for a country in the 15-member Caricom trading bloc.

The next step for the customs agency is the launch of a mobile app. Chief Information Officer for Jamaica Customs, Andre Williams, said the application is currently being developed and should be available to the public over the next two months.

karena.bennett@gleanerjm.com