The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration has announced the introduction of a 48-page passport to Ghanaians by the end of the year.
The move, which will see the addition of 16 more pages to the already existing 32-page booklet, is aimed at satisfying the needs of frequent travellers.
This forms part of a number of initiatives introduced by the ministry, including the extension of passport application centres (PACs) to eight regional capitals; the establishment of the Premium Passport Application Centre; overhauling of passport processing equipment; extension of the validity of passports from five years to 10 years; and the provision of premium services to facilitate the process of passport acquisition for Ghanaians.
“The ministry has started discussions aimed at introducing chip embedded passports to keep up the pace of technological advancement and enhance the security of Ghanaian passports,” Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, said on Tuesday when she took her turn at the Meet-the-Press series organized by the Ministry of Information to explain her Ministry’s s programmes to the public.
“I believe most applicants will now attest to the improvement in the passport service delivery,” she said.
Currently, with regard to online applications, she said the Accra Passport Application Centre (PAC) processes 250 applications daily while the Premium PAC processes 400 applications daily on the average.
“Tema and Koforidua process about 200 applications per day. The intention is to roll out online passport application platform in all the regional PACs. The ultimate plan is to phase out the manual forms by the end of 2019,” she stated.
She said seven Ghanaian Missions abroad namely Berlin, London, New York, Washington, Pretoria, Abuja and Tokyo process and issue biometric passports to Ghanaians in the Diaspora.
“To further minimize the bottlenecks associated with the acquisition of biometric passports, some missions adopted the mobile enrollment of passport applicants in the course of the year,” she disclosed.
The minister said they had earmarked missions in the Hague, Moscow, Paris, Oslo and Brussels in Europe; Beijing and Riyadh in Asia and the Middle East respectively; Addis Ababa, Rabat and Dakar in Africa; Brasilia in South America as well as Canberra in the pacific for the extension of the biometric passport service.
The sector minster further noted that the use of the online application system brought a great deal of relief to visa applicants in the Diaspora.
World Bank Factor
She furthermore announced the selection of the Passport Office by the World Bank as one of the key public service agencies to receive support to procure necessary logistics such as additional printers, cameras, scanners, fingerprint scanners, signature pads, servers, furniture and computers, among other things, to enhance service delivery.
“I am very optimistic that by the time we successfully conclude implementation of this World Bank project and other initiatives, Ghanaians will be enjoying stress free and efficient passport service delivery both at home and abroad,” she added.
Apart from passports, the minister touched on issues covering global and regional diplomacy, bilateral and multilateral relations, economic diplomacy, service delivery, migration, consular issues, peace and security and engagement with the Diaspora.