With growing demand for new passports, those applying under the seasonal workers’ programme will be allocated three days a week starting Monday at the Immigration Office.
In announcing that this week, the Permanent Secretary of Immigration Riley Mesepitu also revealed that they had issued more than 13,000 passports worth $10.7m in the past 18 months—with more than 90% of that to the seasonal workers.
The popular season workers’ programme between Solomon Islands and Australia so as New Zealand has resulted in hundreds packing the Immigration Office each day to apply for new passports.
The numbers have gone past the 4,000 mark this month with that expected to hit 5,000 at the end of this year.
The Central Bank of Solomon Islands revealed that the total remittances for last year alone stood at $215m, the highest ever recorded by the bank.
Mesepitu stated that more than 90% of passports issued were to seasonal workers.
He revealed that in 2021, 8,804 passports were issued and that was equivalent to around $6m. And so far in the first six months of 2022, 4,500 were issued worth $4.7m bringing the total earned to $10.7m in passport fees.
A new passport is worth $1,000.
Mesepitu admitted that they had struggled to deal with the influx of those applying for new passports.
“We tried out best,” he said.
In moving to address the challenge, starting next week they have allocated Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as days only for those applying for passports under the seasonal workers’ programmes.
The two other days belonging to non-seasonal workers’ applications.
In addition to that, they have already placed orders for an additional server and a printing machine from the company that supplies them with new passports and machines.
Also, Mesepitu said they will be setting up mobile units in the provinces to help with those applying for new passports.