Saturday, February 24, 2018

Passport woes for foreign-based Trinis

 My brother-in-law died recently. Thanks to my passport being expired, and thanks to the present situation as it exists in the Immigration Department, I was unable to attend his funeral. I was unable to be there to give comfort and emotional support to my sister, my nephew and other members of my immediate family.

Can you believe there are three T&T consulates to service all of the US, located in NY, DC and FL. My family and I went to the one in NY in early April only to be turned away because there were too many people there. 

You can no longer make appointments, most people in the US work until 5 p.m. but the consulate closes at 3 p.m. Right now nobody in my family has a valid passport. We are not yet US citizens so therefore we are at the mercy of the T&T consulate in New York.

I had complained earlier that week to one of the attendants at the consulate that I had been calling for six months, sometimes daily and nobody had ever answered the phone nor even returned my calls. His nonchalant response was: 

“Oh yes, we do have a problem with that.” 

Then he calmly looked at me, and said that he could not give me more than two forms although I needed six. 

He said everybody in my family needed to come for theirs personally or I could make colour copies on my own on 81/2 x 14 paper. I stood there nonplussed when he made that statement. Can someone tell me exactly when did we get so broke?  

The gentleman then gave me the wrong forms and instructions. So on that day we went to the consulate, if we had managed to enter, we would have been told to come back on another day. 

Efforts to get it done in Trinidad via the drop box system through a third party have proven futile. I was told over the phone by an immigration officer in Trinidad, that each member of my family needs to be personally interviewed even though it is a renewal of the machine readable passports. 

When I told him what happened at the consulate with us not being able to enter, he said, “Well maybe you should go there at five o’ clock in the morning then.” He then hung up the phone on me.

This passport distribution system is hopeless and smacks of “I do not care about my people nor do I care about their time.” 

How can I take a day off to see about something as routine as getting a passport. 

If a US citizen needs a passport all that he/she needs to do is go to the nearest post office with his/her documents, and fill out a form with the help of a postal agent. 

The agent then collects everything including the fee, places it all in a large red envelope and the passport is mailed to your home in less than a month’s time or sooner if you expedite it.

All that it takes to revert to ten-year passports is a simple parliamentary vote. I really do not understand why Trinidad and Tobago is still adhering to this nonsense. This is inconvenient and unfair. 

We should also take note that although the five-year, machine readable passports were an initiative encouraged by the United States to protect itself from terrorism, the US has never stopped issuing ten-year passports to its citizens.

Richard Burton

Staten Island, NY