TT passport – longest wait in Caribbean

In Trinidad and Tobago it can take more than six months to get a passport after an appointment is made.

In Jamaica, a country with twice the population, it takes seven days. There, no appointments are necessary.

Passports, documents essential for travel and identification, take longer to get in TT than any other English-speaking Caricom country.

It's an issue National Security Minister Stuart Young is aware of and he has given instructions for the time to be shortened.

The current wait time is a drastic difference from a few years ago, when a TT passport could be processed within a two-week period.

What accounts for the lengthy time period? Is it the bureaucracy? A glitch in the process? A delay on the supplier end? What options are there for people who'd rather not wait six months to vacation or visit loved ones?

The Newsday attempted to get answers to these and other questions from Chief Immigration Officer Charmaine Ghandi-Andrews. She did not answer calls or WhatsApp messages.

However, Young, who asked Ministry of National Security permanent secretaries for a report on the issue last week, said the reason for the extended delay was because of a new call centre service started by the Immigration Division.

"As soon as the issue of the lengthy time being taken for the renewal of passports came to my attention, I met with permanent secretaries at the Ministry of National Security and directed them that this was unacceptable," Young said in an interview.

"I have been given a preliminary report by the permanent secretary of the Ministry of National Security, who has assured me that he has instructed immigration, for them to bring down the length of time."

Young said he asked that the permanent secretary and immigration work as assiduously and expeditiously as possible so citizens could get their passport renewals down to one month.

He said he asked for a report this week on the progress.

Newsday called immigration departments in 11 other countries in the region and queried processing times for the renewal of machine-readable passports.

The responses ranged from a mere three days in Grenada, which has one tenth of TT's population and seven days in Jamaica, which has twice our population.

Jamaicans also have the option of expedited services for same day, next day and three days at its head office.

Immigration staff in Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica said the process took between three weeks to one month.

In Grenada, it takes three days to process the passport application, with a same-day emergency service for EC$100 (TT$250) and a next-day service for EC$50 (TT$125).

The only other immigration department at a country in the region which requires an appointment be made is Barbados, but appointments were available one week ahead.

Then there is Trinidad and Tobago, where passport applications require an appointment. The appointment itself is simple to make, as citizens have the option of doing it online or through a phone call.

The TT Ministry of National Security's website says the average time for a passport to be processed was three to four weeks for renewal of a machine-readable passport, and six to eight weeks for a first issue machine-readable passport.

This average is far from the current reality.

As of January 27, an attempt to make an appointment at the Immigration Division, Port of Spain, yielded an appointment date in June. Another person got an appointment in Point Fortin for April 3.

After the appointment, immigration staff tell citizens they need to wait six to eight weeks before they can collect their renewed passports.

If it's a first machine-readable passport, that time period is extended to three months.

Caricom countries passport wait times

Antigua and Barbuda – between three weeks and one month

Bahamas – five to ten days. No appointment necessary

Dominica – three weeks. No appointment necessary

Grenada –three days. No appointment necessary

Guyana – five working days. No appointment necessary

Jamaica – seven days. No appointment necessary

St Vincent and the Grenadines – seven working days. No appointment necessary

Barbados – ten business days. Appointments available within a week.


"TT passport – longest wait in Caribbean"

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