By Stanford Conway

The Observer

The twin-island Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis has entered the modern world of sophistication and technology with the introduction of machine-readable passports of international acceptance and repute, but citizens will have to pay more than twice the normal amount to be holders of one.

Last Tuesday, October 25, St. Kitts and Nevis became the first country within the Leeward Islands and the second in the OECS to introduce national passports bearing the CARICOM logo.

At a simple but significant ceremony, the Ministry of National Security, Justice, Immigration and Labour, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, launched the new passports outside Government Headquarters in Church Street.

Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of National Security Mrs. Astona Browne told the large gathering, including the Governor-General and his Deputy, Ministers of Government and members of the Diplomatic Corps, that the system employed in the making and use of the new travel document was not only in compliance with the required standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), but also designed for its security and integrity.

Noting the rationale for the new passports, the PS said, “It would be recalled that in the post 9-11 era, steps have been taken by member states of the international community to implement measures to increase broader control. The introduction of the machine-readable travel document is one such initiative.

“And St. Kitts and Nevis is pleased to be able to move forward with this project, not as just in our capacity as a member state of CARICOM but out of our own commitment to ensure the security of our citizens and of the document that they would hold, which would indeed reduce unnecessary delays at the ports of entry and departure.”

She added that the new passport, unlike the old one, could not be easily tampered by individuals with ulterior motives.

The PS further added that with the mandate from CARICOM and in keeping with the required standards of the ICAO, the reputable Canadian Bank Note Company was approached to make the new passports with a very high level of security features.

Browne said the project had cost the Government over US$1 million and, “due to the high level of security features in the neutral document and the technology involved, you will appreciate that the cost of this new system and the quality of the product will invariably result in a mild increase in the cost of a new passport.”

She declared that application forms for new passports would be made available to the public as of Monday, October 31 at the cost of EC$15 each and could be submitted for processing from Monday, November 7.

The PS also declared that in order to obtain a machine-readable passport, the applicant must submit two passport-size photographs, birth certificate, a recent police record and an EC$85 stamp if he/she is an adult or an EC$50 stamp if it is a child under 16 years of age, along with the application form, “duly endorsed by a recommender”.

She intimated that the cost for an emergency passport would be EC$150, while a fee of EC$250 would have to be paid for the replacement of a lost passport.

The PS noted that current passports were valid and would only be changed after their expiration dates and, the new passports would only be issued to citizens of the Federation.

There will be three new machine-readable passports; the regular passports will be blue in colour, while the officials’ passports will be coloured green and the diplomatic passports burgundy.

The cover of these passports will be similar to the current one in use but will bear the CARICOM logo, which identifies St. Kitts and Nevis as a member state, in addition to the Coat-of-Arms of the Federation.