Government is considering reviewing passport fees upwards to help it break even and avoid the current losses incurred in the processing and production of passports.
Speaking at a press conference in Accra on Wednesday, the Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, said Ghana’s passports were highly subsidised making it the less expensive in Africa.
She said passport processing was a service that the government did not intend to make a profit on and indicated that it would be wrong for the government to continue subsidising the price for acquiring passports.
“So we are looking at it. We are in the middle of negotiations of some sort to see how much more we could charge to break even but not to make a profit”, she said.
Ms Botchwey recalled that her ministry had announced that it would review the cost of acquiring passports outside Ghana downwards because there the cost was a bit high.
However, she said, “here (In Ghana) we are making a loss, therefore, there is the need for Ghanaians to pay realistic prices for passports but no decision has been taken on it yet.”
Online passport application
Ms Botchwey said the Ministry had overcome the challenges with the manual application and had rolled out online application facilities at three passport application centres (PACs)- in Koforidua, Tema and VFS PACs – on an experimental basis.
“Should we not encounter any internet challenges, the Ministry intends to roll-out online applications nationwide by the second half of the year, with the ultimate objective of phasing out the manual form of application by October this year”, she said.
Ms Botchwey said the online application format had the unique advantage of allowing applicants to choose the date and time convenient for them to present themselves at the PACs for their biometrics to be captured.
New passport application centres (PACs)
The Minister said It had been the decision of the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to bring passport service delivery as close to the doorstep of Ghanaians as possible.
Consequently, she said, the Ministry had taken steps to secure office spaces from the Regional Coordinating Councils in the Upper East, Upper West and Central Regions for the establishment of PACs in their respective capitals.
“It is envisaged that these new PACs will be established by the first quarter of 2020. Also, Passport services will further be extended to the newly created Regions in due course”, she said.
Ms Botchwey said and as part of this exercise, the Koforidua and Tema PACs began operations in April this year. I had the pleasure to commission the two PACs today, and it is important to add that these two PACs are for online applications only.
She said the Ghanaian diaspora had not been left out in the extension of passport services and indicated that six Ghana diplomatic missions abroad currently issued biometric passports to Ghanaians in their respective jurisdictions including countries of concurrent accreditation. The Missions are London, Berlin, Washington DC, New York, Pretoria and Abuja.
In the medium term, she said, the Ministry had earmarked Missions in the following capitals for the extension of the biometric passport service. They are 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.
“In the long term, all Ghana Missions abroad will be made to process biometric passports with regional printing hubs located in various regions”, she said.
Extending the validity of passports
Ms Botchwey said as part of measures to reduce the frequency at which Ghanaians applied for passports, the validity of Ghana passports had been extended from five years to 10 years.
She said the passport office commenced issuing the 10-year passports from April 1, and explained that “By this action, a Ghanaian who has not exhausted the pages of his/her passport, will only apply for renewal after 10 years instead of five years.”
Besides, she said, in addition to the 10-year extension of the validity of passports, plans were far advanced to introduce 48-paged passport booklets to satisfy the needs of frequent travellers and indicated that the Ministry expected that to come into effect during the second half of 2019.
“To keep up with the pace of technological advancement, the Ministry has started discussions aimed at introducing chip-embedded passports in due course. This is anticipated to enhance the security and integrity of Ghanaian passports”, she said.