Jamaica News: The Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) is automating its citizenship application process for greater efficiency.
“By the beginning of the next financial year, we expect to start in phases to roll out the new processes,” Chief Executive Officer of PICA, Andrew Wynter, told JIS News in a recent interview.
“This will improve the turnaround time for applications, so that persons will be able to get their citizenship faster,” he added.
The PICA CEO told JIS News that the decision followed a recently completed business review of the agency’s citizenship and passport processes.
He noted that presently, the application for citizenship can take up to three years. The agency is seeking to reduce this to a maximum of 12 months.
“We have been looking at our citizenship process for some time now because one of the concerns that we have had is that it takes quite a while…. [Presently] it is very manual,” he noted.
“We decided we needed to find a way to improve the whole process of persons applying to be citizens, how to make it easier and more in line with the kind of technologies that are available today,” he added.
Mr. Wynter said that the automation, which includes online application, will provide easier access to the service by persons overseas.
“Because we are not online, we can’t reach them. By putting this in place, they will have the opportunity to submit their information… . This is one area in which the agency can grow and improve the products and services that we offer the people of Jamaica and other foreign nationals who wish to become citizens of Jamaica,” he said.
Turning to other areas of improvement, Mr. Wynter told JIS News that discussions are under way to install more automated kiosks at the country’s ports of entry to deal with the increased volume of visitors to the island.
He said that the agency is also working with the Jamaica Customs Agency to provide an online passenger declaration form to facilitate faster processing of passengers at ports of entry.
Mr. Wynter informed that PICA is also considering introducing e-passports. He explained that this will involve embedding an electronic microprocessor chip in the traditional passport, containing biometric information that can be used to authenticate the identity of the passport holder.
He noted that the improvements are important as the agency seeks to provide first class services for the next generation of travellers.
“We have to identify which of our products and processes we can digitize, because we have to prepare ourselves for the next generation of users of our products and services,” he said.
Source: JIS News