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Bermuda passport coding problem to be fixed

A Bermuda passport printed after May 2016 (File photograph)

A coding discrepancy on Bermudian passports that has caused travel headaches for almost seven years will be corrected in 2024, Government House announced.

“The UK Government has confirmed that work will shortly commence to return the Bermuda-specific BMU code to Bermudian British Overseas Territory Citizen passports in 2024,” a statement said.

Rena Lalgie, the Governor, said: “I know that news of the reinstatement of the passport code will be welcomed by Bermudians, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of our hard work in 2024.”

Travel problems with the passport code surfaced after May 2016, when the printing of Bermudian passports was taken over by Britain.

The biometric chip of Bermudian passports caused chaos in a string of countries, particularly at ports of entry to the United States other than the US pre-clearance at LF Wade International Airport.

The code GBR, for Great Britain, would appear when passport data was scanned instead of BMU, the country code for Bermuda.

Bermudians do not require a visa to enter the US, but the use of the GBR code meant that those holding UK-printed British Overseas Territories Citizen passports, and headed to the US, often incurred delays and missed flights.

Government House said the passport fix came after “the establishment last year of a UK-Bermuda Working Group and successful discussions with a range of stakeholders in that forum”.

More details would be published “in due course”, the statement said, with anyone applying to renew a Bermuda passport in the meantime to continue follow the guidance online.

The GBR code will continue to be issued on the documents until 2024.

Lord Goldsmith, the British Minister for Overseas Territories, said: “Premier Burt raised the important issue of the reinstatement of the BMU code with me shortly after I took on responsibility for the Overseas Territories, and I recognise how important this is for Bermudians.

“I am extremely pleased that a resolution is now agreed.”

Ms Lalgie said: “We have worked closely with Government of Bermuda representatives and various UK government departments to reach this point.”

Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, welcomed the announcement.

“Since the change in our passport code, Bermudians travelling overseas for medical treatment, education and vacation have often encountered issues adversely impacting that travel experience,” he said.

“The Government has consistently raised this issue locally and directly to the UK Government. So it is welcome news that this advocacy has been heard and that work will soon begin to resolve the issue.”

The issue has been the subject of talks for six years between Her Majesty’s Passport Office, the Deputy Governor, the US Consul General and United States Customs and Border Protection.

It was taken on by Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, then the Minister of Home Affairs for the One Bermuda Alliance, followed by the late Walton Brown, minister under the Progressive Labour Party Government, and subsequently Wayne Caines in 2019 when he was Minister of National Security — followed in turn by Mr Burt.

Talks were continuing as recently as last year with Paul Candler, the director of the British Overseas Territories.

Craig Cannonier, the shadow tourism minister, said it was “great to hear that finally we are seeing some kind of light at the end of the tunnel”.

“Bermudians can look forward to the lack of hassle,” he said. “Our relationships and history with the US has been pivotal to Bermuda passports allowing us the access that we have.

“It was tough to swallow being treated like so many other places as if we didn’t have that relationship forged with the US.”

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Published April 28, 2023 at 11:12 am (Updated April 28, 2023 at 11:12 am)

Bermuda passport coding problem to be fixed

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