Antigua and Barbuda nationals urged to update travel documents or visas may be imposed
ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Monday November 19, 2012 – Antigua and Barbuda could face the possibility of having visas imposed on its nationals wanting to visit European countries because of the failure to fully adopt the machine readable passports, a senior Immigration official has said.
Permanent Secretary within the Citizen and Passport Division, Jocelyn Greene, said individuals still using non-machine readable passports often face border control officers who are not equipped to deal with the documents, which are virtually obsolete.
Greene said a potential negative implication of individuals not upgrading their passports is concern by larger territories, like the European Union, about the integrity of the non-machine readable passports.
She said these countries may impose visa restrictions on countries whose citizens continue to travel on non-machine readable passports.
The concern is that these documents can easily be tampered with and may pose a threat to border security, Greene said noting that the machine readable and e-passports have become the norm, and the International Civil Aviation (ICA) has set a fast-approaching deadline for passports to either be an e-passport or a machine readable passport.
A government statement Monday urged nationals who have not yet obtained machine readable passports to do so, with haste, in their own self-interest and also as a matter of national interest.
It said that for several years now, National Security Minister Dr. L. Errol Cort and the Citizenship and Passport Division have advised people to obtain machine readable passports.
“These calls have, however, gone unheeded in some quarters. Some people who have dragged their feet on the process frequently ask, “Why do I have to go through the expense to change my passport before it expires?” the statement said.
Greened warned that passengers face the risk of having to wait for long periods until their old documents are verified insisting that some countries simply do not accept people travelling on non-machine readable passports.
Machine readable passports were introduced here in 2006. The new document is navy blue instead of black and bears the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) logo.
The new and improved version of the passport has updated safety features that make it difficult for fraudsters to tamper with the document and to reproduce it. These security features are also able to be read by machine. This reduces time spent at immigration counters and help to reduce the occurrence of human error in processing travellers. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)