The introduction of the Electronic Passport System is one of the most successful citizen-centric activities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Permanent Secretary Dr. Benon M. Mutambi has said.
While addressing journalists at Uganda Media Centre on Monday morning about the interventions undertaken by the Ministry of Internal Affairs to improve delivery of immigration services, Dr. Mutambi noted that with globalization and stability in the country, the number of Uganda citizens travelling abroad for tourism, business, conferences, jobs, and education, has increased rapidly.
“As a result, over the years, we have seen a growth in the demand for Passports. The growth in demand has also attributed to the need to replace the old Passport with the Electronic Passport as a deadline for validity of the old Passport which was 31st January 2021 and has been extended to 4th April 2022. You will recall that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, worldwide travel restrictions were imposed in March up to July. And whereas we had lockdown, we accumulated backlog on the on-line system because people continued to apply without being served” Dr. Mutambi said.
He noted that after about 6 months of lockdown, there was a gradual easing of restrictions at work places and the Immigration operations resumed but only at 30% capacity due to the Standard Operating Procedures set by Government to curb the spread of Covid-19.
In October 2020, Entebbe International Airport and land borders were opened and this marked a new demand phase for our Passport services.
“In effect, the pandemic created a hangover for our services which led to an increase in demand for our Passport services. Due to job losses, many Ugandans are opting to take up employment services abroad and this has brought pressure on the service from 1000 Passports to 2100 Passports daily. Labor export resumed in December 2020 and to-date, the number of domestic workers cleared has been increasing” he added.
In December 2020, 491 Ugandans left the country for labor export, in January 2021, 2,708 Ugandans left for Labor exports, in February 2021, 5,256 Ugandans left for Labor export, in March, 8,666 left the country for Labor export.
Dr. Mutambi says that from the statistics above, the current increased demand for the Passports appears to be largely attributed to the high demand for Uganda’s labor by the Arab countries.
“In light of the above, we are experiencing large crowds at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and this is also due to the mandatory requirement for every Passport applicant to appear in order to have their biometrics captured for Passport processing. This means that at any given day, the Ministry is accommodating more than 4000 people, most of whom are seeking the Passport service” he said.
According to Dr. Mutambi, the Ministry has since decentralized passport enrolment services to regional centres to ease service delivery.
On the 29th March 2021, Mbarara Regional Immigration Office operationalized the Passport enrolment system and its operations are being ramped up to ease the pressure at the Ministry headquarters. Mbale and Gulu will be operational by the end of May and June 2021 respectively.
The Ministry has also re-instated full-scale operations by implementing a two (2) shift system at the Ministry Headquarters for the Passport section which runs from 07:00 Hrs to 19.00 Hrs each day of the week.
The Passport application portals and scheduler system has been configured to avail the time slots on any given day of the week as mentioned above.
“We have increased our daily enrolment rates to match the 2100 applications received daily, and the entire production line leading to Passport issuance has been doubled to enable production and issuance of at least 2000 Passports daily; We also commit to our clients a service standard of 2 days for express applicants and not more than 4 days for normal applicants to receive their Passports from the date of enrolment” Dr. Mutambi added.
He revealed that together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, they have met the Executive Committee of the External Labor Recruiting Agencies, to understand their operations and agreed on modalities to serve Ugandans better.
Also, the Ministry is set to operationalize Kampala Regional Office which will be a Passport Collection Centre to ease the congestion problem currently being experienced at the Ministry Headquarters. The Ministry Headquarters will be preserved for only those seeking to be enrolled for issuance of Passports.
Procurement is also in progress to increase equipment infrastructure capacity that will match the projected demand rates especially as we near the new deadline of 4th April 2022 for the old Machine-Readable Passport that we communicated to the International Civil Aviation Organization.
He appealed to the general public to adhere to the Passport application procedures in place especially appearing at enrolment centres only at scheduled dates and time. Applications are made strictly online at www.passports.go.ug.
Dr. Mutambi also reminded the general public that the deadline for using the old Machine-Readable Passports is 4th April 2022 and all citizens are therefore encouraged to replace their old Passports with the new international Electronic Passport.