NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Department of Immigration has announced the rollout of several major initiatives, including its first-ever cashless payment platform and the Extended Stay Permit Programme, will begin next week.
The department also announced the re-introduction of its Monarch House location as a one-stop-shop for services related to Citizenship and Permanent Residency.
The redevelopment of Immigrationʼs East Bay St. operation is slated to be completed by early November, and the launch of the Extended Stay Permit Programme on October 22.
The initiatives are part of a wider effort to realize the governmentʼs agenda for improving the ease of doing business and accelerating the digital transformation of government services, according to the Ministry of Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration in a statement.
The Immigration department’s cashless platform will allow applicants to pay for immigration-related services via an online portal or at third party sites. Certified cheque payments will also be available.
According to the statement, the department has successfully overseen the soft launch of the platform for public testing this week with the full launch scheduled for next Monday, October 19.
Minister responsible for Immigration, Elsworth Johnson said the digitization effort will provide much-needed convenience to applicants using the system while also allowing for tighter controls and monitoring of transactions.
“We are dedicated to the continued modernization of all platforms throughout our Ministry,” he said.
“The Immigration Department has focused its resources on improving the efficiency of our systems and the conveniences offered to the public. I am certain that users of this new system will welcome these changes with open arms. All cashless transactions will now be traceable, providing for greater transparency in our processes and eliminating opportunities for anyone to circumvent the systems we have in place.”
Johnson said: “This will help greatly with our zero-tolerance approach to corruption, as well as our accountability efforts.”
According to the statement, individuals will need an email address or a mobile phone to gain access to the platform
Upcoming updates to the platform include the ability for applicants to check the status of their application online, slated for December 2020, and the ability to enroll for new and existing permits from the comfort of their homes or businesses, scheduled for the first quarter of 2021.
The redevelopment of Monarch House includes a full revamp of the departmentʼs Naturalization Unit.
“Gone are the days of the public having to trek between Monarch House and our Hawkins Hill Headquarters to process different parts of their applications,” Johnson said.
“The entire application process, from enrollment to collection of certificates and cards, will now be facilitated from Monarch House. The efficient delivery of services is key to achieving our objectives of modernization and improving the ease of doing business. It can also lead to an important economic stimulus for those seeking permanent residency through investment.”
He said: “This has been an important issue for financial services industry stakeholders, and we are working to respond to their needs by implementing a new system and a new team ready to deliver on these objectives.”
The Extended Stay Permit Programme was devised as a remote study and work permit program allowing foreign students enrolled in online courses and foreign remote workers to reside in The Bahamas.
“This innovative program, which has been fast-tracked by the government, makes The Bahamas one of the leading innovators in the strategic pursuit of the remote work and study market as the world contends with the global pandemic,” Johnson added.
“It not only creates a new revenue stream for the government through fees collected and taxes generated due to increased consumption and import of goods, but it also brings money into the private sector and stimulates business activity.”