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UK passport office blamed for travel woes

Patricia Gordon-Pampling, Minister of Home Affairs

Blame for “untenable” travel obstacles that have held up an undisclosed number of Bermudian travellers bound for the United States has been laid on the UK passport office.

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Home Affairs, told Parliament that Her Majesty’s Passport Office had ignored concerns that were raised from Bermuda when the printing of local passports switched over to Britain.

“We are demanding that there be an appropriate resolution to this problem,” the minister said, after updating MPs on the delays experienced by travellers holding UK-printed British Overseas Territories Citizen Bermuda passports who were headed to the US.

Bermudians do not require visas to enter the US, and that agreement still stands: travellers passing through US Customs in LF Wade International Airport will not experience problems.

But local passport holders in jurisdictions unfamiliar with the arrangement, such as in Europe, have been subject to questions or delays for passports printed after May 2016, which contain a biometric chip — and the code on the passport data page has been switched from BMU to GBD.

“I must stress that the decision to transfer the printing was not a decision made by Bermuda,” Ms Gordon-Pamplin said.

“As our passports are British passports, the edict came from HMPO and the transfer process has been ongoing since 2010.”

Asked by deputy Opposition leader Walter Roban if the situation ought to have been anticipated, the minister said she agreed “100 per cent”.

Michael Dunkley, the Premier, has written to Baroness Anelay, the minister responsible for the Overseas Territories, asking for the matter to be resolved “as a matter of urgency”.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin said her ministry was working assiduously to remedy the situation, but advised travellers with passports that cause delays to obtain a US visa in the meantime.