PICA to roll out online passport application system by September
The government has given its approval for the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) to spend US$1.2 million to roll out the online passport application system by September of this year.
Initially, the online platform will be solely for adult renewals. Therefore, first-time applicants, parents/guardians applying on behalf of children, and applicants requesting amendments will still be required to visit PICA facilities.
National Security Minister Robert Montague made the disclosure on Tuesday at PICA's head office on Constant Spring Road, Kingston, as he officially handed over a new Coaster bus to the agency.
"It (online system) will not only assist out citizens in Jamaica, but Jamaicans right across the world," he said, while pointing out that PICA issues approximately 240,000 passports per year.
"In order to do that, and do it effectively and efficiently, we have to employ and deploy technology to aid our workers because their welfare is as equally important as the service to our customers," he added.
Chief Executive Officer of PICA Andrew Wynter revealed that the agency has struck up a partnership with courier services provider DHL Express in anticipation of the system rollout.
"Applicants will be able to track (the process) once the passport enters into production. So they'll know when it's ready, and then track when it has been sent by us through DHL to them. Hence, they'll get an estimated time when their passport will arrive," he said.
The PICA head also pointed to other benefits of the system such as costs reductions, fewer application errors, and improved security of personal information.
"Many of our Jamaicans living overseas live in remote areas or very far from the various embassies or high commissions, so it's very difficult to action renewals. The online platform will aid them significantly. Chances are they'll see a reduction in costs, travelling, especially to go from state to state," said Wynter.
He continued: "It will also lead to greater compliance in terms of the accuracy of information because at the back end of our system, we have facial recognition and other security features, which will ensure that persons can't steal our applicants' identity. So in terms of the ability to ensure the integrity of our applicants, the online system is that much more improved and enhanced."