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Today the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) announced that effective November 16, 2009 the cost of a Jamaican passport will increase between 80 and 380 percent. Bearing in mind that many persons use there passport not only for travelling but for identification purposes as well, especially for banking or legal issues, I believe this increase is very unreasonable. In fact looking at all the requirements for travelling overseas, passport, visas and airline ticket the overall cost of travelling is fast becoming out of reach of the average Jamaican.
The first requirement to travel internationally is a passport. As announced today the price of a passport will increase by 80 per cent, for adults from $2,500 to $4,500 and for a child, from $1,500 to $2,700. If by chance your passport is stolen or lost the replacement fee increase will be 380 percent from $2,500 to $9,500 for an adult and from $1500 to $5700 for a child.
The next important requirement for travelling is a visa. This cost varies depending on your destination. The United States, Canada and the United Kingdom are the more popular destinations for Jamaicans. A nonimmigrant visa to the USA will cost $131.00 USD ($11700.00 JMD). The cheapest visa to England is $10400.00 JMD for a nonimmigrant visa valid for six months. Canada starts at $75.00 CAD ($6225.00 JMD) for a single entry visa. These fees are non refundable and do not guarantee you a visa. So the possibility is that you could put out all this cash for nothing.
Now, the price of the visas are already high, but what really gets me about the process of getting a visa is the fact that you are compelled to go through one agency or another in order to apply. To just obtain visa information and schedule an appointment for a nonimmigrant US visa interview the cost for the Call Center option is $13.00 USD ($1157.00JMD). You can no longer just go and join a line at the embassies. Oh no…You must first pay the bank for a bank draft/managers cheque, bank statement plus a JMD $150 transaction fee, per application (fee varies by banks). Then you must pay a delivery service such as DHL, $750.00 JMD to drop off and pick up the documents at the embassy. For on line self service there is a cost of $10.00 USD ($890.00 JMD). The list varies from embassy to embassy but they all have extra cost attached. Even to go to the Cayman Islands we have to pay to get police records in order to obtain a visa.
Once you have managed to acquire your passport and visa you now have to purchase your airline ticket. ‘From fuel did rise, airfare did rise, however when fuel did drop, it was on its own’. By the way the government taxes are almost as high now as the price of the tickets. If you are going to Florida 90 miles away the airfare is approximately $200.00 USD and the taxes is $100.00 USD. Naturally the further away you go the more money it cost.
So, after you have put out all that money, there is none to take on your trip. You must now go and sponge off relatives. OK so travelling is not a necessity. That is no reason to kill it. The foreigners have made it very clear that they don’t want us in their countries. The United Kingdom visa has increased 3 or 4 times since this year 2009 alone. (So much for being a member of the commonwealth). Now, it’s our own government trying to milk us for everything they can. Again I say 80 percent is unreasonable. In my experience travelling has been my greatest teacher. There is so much to be learnt from the exposure gained from travelling. I do believe if more Jamaicans had the opportunity to see what life is like on the other foot they would be able to better appreciate what we have and learn to cherish it more.