Government blames late applications for travel authorisation delays
Delays to travel authorisation approvals are usually because people submitted their forms too late, a government spokeswoman said.
She added that many recent travellers filled out applications in the evening before their planned departure for Bermuda or even from the airport.
The spokeswoman said on Monday: “If the TA application is completed correctly and submitted at least 24 hours before intended travel, the process is seamless.
“The TA team has been working tirelessly to meet the increased yet welcomed demand to travel to Bermuda this week, and the delays tend to be those late TA submissions.”
She explained that everyone aged 2 and up needed the approved TA to travel to the island.
The government website said that TA applications can be made up to a month before travel.
It added: “Early application is strongly recommended.”
The spokeswoman said that a completed application should be submitted for review at least 24 hours before the scheduled departure.
She explained: “Complaints by visitors not receiving their TAs in time to fly would appear to be a direct result of not submitting their TA within the required 24-hour period before travel.
“This is not a new process, and it is clearly communicated on the gov.bm portal.
“Countries worldwide have rules and regulations to be followed before embarkation or boarding, and Bermuda is no different.”
Carol Smith said she and husband Kevin, who are visiting this week from Vermont, did not receive their approvals until she called the helpline on Sunday, despite making the applications almost three days earlier.
She said: “Our paperwork was all submitted Thursday evening and we didn’t hear back.”
Ms Smith highlighted that although she feared offices would be closed over the Easter weekend, she hoped the approvals would arrive at least 48 hours before her flight on Monday morning.
She said: “Definitely on Saturday I became very nervous, again, because I knew I was backed up against the holiday.”
The first-time visitor explained that she called the helpline at about 2.30pm Bermuda time on Sunday and was on hold for about 90 minutes.
She highlighted that it was helpful to be advised of her place in the calls queue, which moved “fairly quickly”.
Ms Smith said: “Truly, we were not bothered except that I was nervous … once I finally had that paperwork, and it came through while on the telephone to the woman, and at that point I was much more relieved.”
She explained that the helpline call taker was able to locate the couple’s information, confirm their authorisations were approved and send them the necessary e-mails.
Ms Smith said: “I worry on behalf of future travellers, as the travel season is gearing up, with the Government’s ability to keep up with what I would imagine will be an increased number of applicants.”
She added that the experience would not stop a return visit and she “absolutely would come back”.
Ms Smith said: “I understand and I actually respect the country’s desire to keep the mandates in place and to keep the protections up.
“I’ve really actually been very impressed and felt very comfortable as a result of all the hand sanitisers in places and the number of people still wearing masks.”
The government spokeswoman said this week: “Late TAs and a significant increase in applications, especially cruise ship passengers, can delay the process.
“However, all TAs for the next day’s travel are prioritised and completed.”
She added that it was difficult to say why there would be delays for someone who submitted forms about three days in advance of travel without details of the specific case.
The spokeswoman highlighted that TAs, which cost $40 each, were processed between 8am and 8pm.
She added: “If a person completes their TA outside of those hours, it will not be reviewed until the call centre opens.”
The spokeswoman explained on Monday: “We have seen in recent days many travellers completing their TAs on the evening before their travel or from the airport on the day of travel in hopes of receiving their TA approval on short notice.
“Upon approval of the TA, the traveller will receive notification via the e-mail address provided.
“If the TA is rejected, such notification will also be provided via e-mail.
“Travellers are also encouraged to check their spam to ensure that the communications from the Ministry of Health are received.”
An online petition calling for the TA to be dropped had attracted about 1,200 signatures by yesterday evening.
David Burt, the Premier, said in January this year: “I do not believe the Travel Authorisation will go out of use until the earliest I would say April 1, 2023.”
Kim Wilson, the health minister, said last July that the government had taken in $5.42 million from the scheme in the first year after it was introduced.
The Budget book showed that revenues from TA fees were expected to reach $22 million in 2022-23.
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