Passport applications have quadrupled pushing delays to as much as 20 weeks – minister
Bermuda passport applications have quadrupled since March, overwhelming the Department of Immigration and pushing delays beyond the expected wait of 11 weeks.
Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, told the House of Assembly today that an extra requirement for immigration staff to check if applicants are dual British citizens had worsened delays, which in some cases have topped 20 weeks.
The additional check of dual nationality has been in place since August 2021.
Extra staff will be taken on to deal with the backlog, Mr Hayward said. The aim is to return to a maximum 11-week processing time.
Staff have also been required since 2016 to establish how each applicant is entitled to a British Overseas Territories Citizen passport.
He apologised to the public and told MPs he was aware of missed events such as weddings and job-training courses.
“It is no secret that the Department of Immigration has long had operational challenges and has experienced backlogs from time to time,” Mr Hayward said.
“Since midway through the pandemic, the department noticed a marked increase in passport applications after a long period of lower than normal overseas travel.”
He said the Government was still trying to return BOTC passport processing to the island, after it was taken over by the UK in 2016.
Mr Hayward told MPs that only a few Immigration staff up until 2016 had been tasked with checking applicants’ entitlement for BOTC passports and that extra training was needed for the new requirement to check British citizenship.
The Ministry of Finance has approved taking on more staff – but Mr Hayward said a permanent solution for the department would include a review and reorganisation.
He added that UK passport authorities had told local officials that the island’s supply of emergency travel documents would not be topped up once they were all used.
The ability to issue emergency passports will be limited by the requirements of Her Majesty’s Passport Office in Britain.
· To read the statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.