The Passport and Travel Documents (Amendment) Bill, 2016, was passed into law in the National Assembly on Tuesday, August 23, thus allowing the removal of bottlenecks in the system. The Act is amended in section 8 subsection (2) by replacing it as follows: “8 (2). The Permanent Secretary within the Ministry responsible for passports shall be the Chief Passport Officer.” In other words, what this means now is that the relevant Ministry for passports, for processing, is solely the Ministry of National Security.

In the past, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was the Chief Passport Officer while passports were administered by the Ministry of National Security.

The Honourable Mark Brantley, Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that as the Minister currently charged with the responsibility for Foreign Affairs, he can speak to the bottlenecks that sometimes occur in the system where the Ministry of National Security is ordinarily charged with dealing with passports, but for a period of time the Chief Passport Officer was the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Indeed we have had situations where there has been some confusion as to where the authority lies,” said the Foreign Affairs Minister. “So I think that this amendment as simple as it is, is critically important in making it clear now, in allowing the lines to be clear and this has implications. It has implications even in the context of the Citizenship by Investment [Programme], the need there to have not just the processing unit do what they do, but also in the case of passports that have been lost [and or] misplaced and additional passports required for whatever reasons.”

Minister Brantley supported the amended Bill.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise to lend my support to a very small amendment to the substantive legislation, a substantive Act and this is the Passport and Travel Documents (Amendment) Bill, 2016,” said Minister Brantley, while adding that the speaker before him gave a very clear picture of what the amendment entailed. “It is minor in terms of the language and in terms of just being one page, indeed three short sections – short title, interpretation and the amendment. But the relevant amendment is critical.”

He pledged his Ministry’s continued support.

“I just want to say however, to the public, that it is expected that notwithstanding this amendment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to play its role, for example, in relation to our embassies, consulates and high commissions around the world that our citizens can still feel comfortable going to those institutions that represent St. Kitts and Nevis globally in order to have matters dealt with that affect them as citizens,” he said. “I would like to pledge to the mover that notwithstanding this necessary amendment, we will continue to do our part to ensure that our citizenry whether at home or abroad are served adequately.”

The Minister of Foreign Affairs noted that this amendment allows the public to have some confidence in knowing that in a way they are dealing with a one stop shop when it comes to the processing of passports, instead of having to be bounced around between ministries.

Over the last ten (10) years, the Passport Office has been aligned with the Ministry of National Security. All matters relating to the Agreements between the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis and Canadian Bank Note (CBN), pertaining to the issuance of first Machine-Readable and later e-passports and the Border Management System were all done and, thus, are being executed under the aegis of the Ministry of National Security.