May 17, 2016 News
– Brazilians account for most of work permits
A year ago when he was appointed, Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix, said he entered office and found the immigration and citizenship process to be in disarray.
The task was taken on to bring order. According to Felix, he found that oftentimes, visitors to Guyana presented themselves to immigration, but had no way of proving how they would be able to sustain themselves during their stay.
“This situation has not been completely rectified, but it has abated,” the Minister said.
He spoke of the Ministry’s success in curbing the backlog of applications for Work Permits, Visas on Arrivals and Extensions of Stay.
“Citizens now seeking to have these permits have them with relative ease and within the relatively short period, at least shorter than the period a year before.”
Quoting figures for Work Permit applications received by the Ministry from May 2015 to May 2016, he said 1,771 were received with 1,768 issued.
The number of Visas on Arrival, issued for the same period was given as 1,083 from 1,092 applications.
Mining applications totalled 586, with 406 approved, whilst the other 180 are currently being vetted.
Minister Felix explained that the majority of mining permits are sought by Brazilians, who through a sponsor, apply via the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC). These applications are then passed to the Ministry of Citizenship. Inquiries, he said, are then made for any police records or possible criminal records with the aid of the Guyana Police Force and their Brazilian counterparts, with assistance from the Brazilian Institute.
Minister Felix revealed that 145 persons were processed over his year in office, and have since become Guyanese citizens. This is an increase from the same period, 2014 to 2015, when 114 persons applied successfully for citizenship status.
With regards to birth certificates and passport applications, Minister Felix said that, “these are two of the busier departments”. He said that from June 1, 2015 to April 30, 2016, some 114,120 passports were produced and issued to Guyanese residents. For those in the diaspora, 14,612 passports were issued.
On the issue of birth certificates, Minister Felix explained that his staffers reiterated the need for early registration.
A joint effort with UNICEF and the Ministry, the Minister said, resulted in outreach visits to Regions 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 9, with late birth registrations being conducted. It was explained that these were for children who needed to be registered after a year had passed from the time of their birth.
In Region 1, 261 late registrations were done with 687 applications received. In Region 2, 35 late registrations were completed and 40 new ones. In Region 5, 11 late and 7 new births were processed. In Region 6, there were four late and 167 new birth applications, Region 7, 38 late with 131 births, and Region 9, 33 late with 108 birth applications completed. Similar outreaches will be scheduled for Regions 3, 4, 8 and 10.
“We feel it is essential that children should have their births registered, since it would provide them with the evidence necessary to receive Government services, in the form of vaccinations and admissions to schools etc,” Minister Felix said.
Highlighting notable accomplishments, Minister Felix said that the time for the processing of passport applications was substantially reduced. He pointed to the fact that there were complaints about persons in the diaspora waiting for months for their documents, before the creation of his ministry.
The minister explained that a system has now been initiated where once the applications reach the Immigration Department they are urgently dealt with.
“My records will show that passports coming in from the diaspora are processed at the Immigration Department between five and seven days.” He added that once this process is completed, the documents are returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for dispatch overseas.
The Ministry has recognised the need to have a more efficient operation at the Immigration Offices to apply for passports. This has prompted the move to decentralise this service, and distribution has begun in Berbice, he said.
“We would want to take it further, that applications are received there and passports are issued there”. Other communities such as Bartica, Lethem and Anna Regina are slated to offer similar services, he added.
Looking forward, Minister Felix said that Immigration support services will be expanded. “Our consideration is to put the service online, so that you can apply for a visa online, and the intention is to widen the services to persons living in areas which are not easily accessible to our consulates abroad.”
Birth certificates will be improved, the Minister further stated, to reduce attempts at fraud. Digitisation of these records will be implemented and tenders have already been sent out for this project. Some work has already started on this at the General Register Office, he added, “which would serve as a basis for producing birth certificates in a more secure way.”
The Ministry of Citizenship was formulated after the current Government took office in May 2015. It is intended to deal with all aspects of citizenship. These include identity issues, issuances of birth certificates, passports, citizenship applications, visa, work permits and several others.
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