Wed | Aug 16, 2017

PICA leaves a bitter taste

Published:Monday | March 14, 2016 | 3:00 AM


Customer service in Jamaica, or in many instances, the lack thereof, is a serious issue that warrants immediate attention. My experience with the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), an essential government institution, is evidence that we are in deep trouble and need to re-evaluate how easy it is to do business in Jamaica.

In March 2015, I applied for a citizenship certificate and a passport for my daughter and I asked (in writing) that due to the urgent nature of the request, diligence be given and that the process be expedited because neither of us could travel until she had received these items. Two months later, after repeated calls and queries, I was told that I had not submitted the correct documents and there were outstanding pictures.

In July 2015, I resubmitted the documents, along with pictures, and I asked PICA to indicate whether they had received the documents and to verify if they were correct. I was unable to get a definitive answer, but was told that the citizenship certificate was being 'processed' and this would be done in 30 days.

On February 12, 2016, after no further response and repeated queries, much to my dismay, I was once again told that the documents were still outstanding, despite PICA's earlier reassurances that it was being 'processed'. Luckily, however, they eventually located the documents after I stressed that they had been submitted seven months earlier.

To date, March 2016, I am yet to receive a certificate or a passport. The latest update from PICA is that they have found the documents and are now doing consultations, more than likely to verify the documents.

Now, in Jamaican terms and considering the previous interactions, the possibility of obtaining these documents any time soon remains rather dubious.

My experience with this important government institution warrants many questions. Is there a data collection and verification unit at PICA? If there are documents outstanding, shouldn't the party be personally notified via a phone call or email? Can the process be expedited on the basis of an emergency? Who presides over this entity? Under whose jurisdiction does PICA fall? Is PICA - or more particularly the Citizenship Unit - a law unto itself? (In all fairness, the Passport and Immigration sections offered me information and support.)


This cannot be allowed to continue if this agency wants to be taken seriously. It must be specific about time frames and must be consistent in informing the public, because you cannot have some members of staff saying a service will be done in 30 days and then have it approach or go beyond 365 days.

If you are dealing with individuals, then you should consider making allowances for emergencies. You also need to make the distinction between 'being processed' and 'not being processed'. If there are documents outstanding, update your system to reflect this and stop giving the impression that it is being 'processed' because this is ridiculous and it helps no one.

Please note that you are dealing with people's lives and you cannot be so frivolous and trite about it. Presently, your service is really a disservice and to say that it is a disgrace would be seriously understating it because, sadly enough, with each encounter, I am beginning to believe that I am somehow trapped in a sordid dream or, perhaps, I am an involuntary character in either an Anansi or never-ending duppy story as it is almost a year and I keep going around in circles. All I can think is, is PICA showing that Jamaica is unmistakably Third World?

Rosalie Grant