Department of Immigration Take Steps to Improve Services Print E-mail
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Thursday, 20 June 2013 00:00

Hon. Elvin Penner Minister of Immigration and NationalityThe Department of Immigration and Nationality Services continues to improve its services to members of the public. These improvements are coming about with the allocation of increased resources to information technology and, by reviewing the current laws relevant to migration.

With the Government of Belize website at having recently been re-designed, the Immigration and Nationality Services has taken steps to make it easier for members of the public to download documents relevant to their services. Visitors to the Government of Belize website can now click on the download section, under ‘Quick Links’ from that website and search for a Visa Form, for example, and download the file to their computer. While these features have existed previously, the Department of Immigration and Nationality Services has liaised with the Government’s IT Unit, which is in charge of the Government’s website so that a space can be created specifically for immigration.

Technology is also being applied in other areas at the Department of Immigration and Nationality Services.

“…Technology is one area where we are trying to get some improvement on in terms of having a database in the computers where we could easily access files and know where they stand… some files, they are probably missing a little detail so that they don’t qualify at the time, we can then have the numbers and the cases on the computer, we can easily access them to inform the public on what they need to bring in to complete the process…” says Hon.Elvin Penner, Minister of Immigration and Nationality.

Concurrent with the improvements in IT at the Department of Immigration and Nationality Services, Minister Penner reports that a special focus has now been placed on the Nationality Act so that the Department can try to enforce the act and laws of the Department to the ‘letter’.

“We have gotten some advice on the interpretation of these laws and policies and of course, we are diligently working in completing and revising some policies so that the Immigration Director and officers will have straightforward guidelines on what procedures to follow…”, says Minister Penner.

Efforts are also being made at the Department of Immigration to get passports more efficiently to the public and at the same time, ensuring that those passports don’t go to the wrong persons. Similar efforts to bring more efficiency are also taking place in the Nationality Services Section.
“We have tried very hard to be more efficient in the issuance of nationalities; in the past, we have people waiting many years for nationalities. We have almost completed our nationality applications for all the years up to 2012; we are trying to make it a process where it shouldn’t be longer than a six month period,” stated Minister Penner.

The attainment of Nationality is not an automatic process but involves several steps. First, the applications are submitted to the Department of Immigration and Nationality Services, where the request for a first interview follows. Thereupon, there is a background check by the Special Branch, after which the request for Nationality goes to the Solicitor General for legal vetting and then a Citizenship Test is done. The completing steps towards nationality are where the Director makes recommendations, and then it goes to the National Committee, then to the Minister for approval after which, there is the Swearing in Ceremony.

Other functions provided by the Department of Immigration and Nationality Services are the processing of Permits, Visas, emergency travel documents and Permanent Residences. Both the obtaining of Passports and Nationality are also important component services under that Department.
While interactions with the Immigrations and Nationality Services can now be done remotely via a computer, for significant transactions such as obtaining a passport, visits can be made to their headquarters beside the Belize Natural Energy Building, across from the National Institute of Culture and History Building or Drive Creek Road in Belmopan. The Immigration Department Building was once at the old cinema building in Belmopan but in 2010, Social Security advised that they needed that building to remodel it and so the Department of Immigration had to relocate to Drive Creek Road where they now continue to be easily accessible to members of the public.