By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Government has invested $250,000 into a new computer programme designed to speed up the work permit application process at the Ministry of Immigration.
Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell said yesterday the programme will drastically increase the turn around time at the Ministry as the department is on average three months behind on processing applications.
Mr Mitchell said there is currently a backlog of between four to five hundred work permit applications alone and the department is still receiving an average of 200 applications a day.
“It is unfortunately a vexing problem and we have been struggling with how to get a grip on this issue of the timing of the decisions on work permits, citizenship applications and permanent resident applications. There appears to be a significant delay in the point after which someone comes in and pays and is actually enrolled and the ability of the department to scan the entire file into its database, so now there is a backlog of applications,” he said.
“In looking at the applications, the applications mainly date back to July of this year some as far back as June, few as far back as May, and one as far back as November. I am trying to find out why those would exist this far back as that. But generally speaking it appears as though it takes, if you take June as the average and this is now September about three months. To me that is still a long time for an application to be in the works from the time it comes into the department to the time it actually reaches the immigration board. So we have to do some trouble shooting ourselves to find out why that is.”
Mr Mitchell said the programme would transfer or give the ability of the public to apply on-line as a part of the government’s e-government programme.
June Collie, Director of Information at the Department of Information and technology, said the programme should be launched in six to nine months.
“The project is an on-line service for immigration work permits, requesting permits, paying for permits and also being able to see the status of the request and when you can come in and pick up your permit,” she said.
“This project will drastically cut down a lot of time it takes to go through the process as it is now. The users will do a lot of the data entry because they will be requesting on-line. They will also be providing the scanned documents on-line and immigration will be asking the business community to use this application instead of coming in with psychical documents. So this is one of the things we are looking at in terms of helping them with the processes and also reducing the turn-around time.”
Mr Michell also reassured business owners that the government understands the long wait has a damaging affect on their business and they are doing everything to rectify the problem.
“We are pledged to trouble shoot this issue to be sensitive to the needs of the consuming public which includes business communities, but it also includes many, many ordinary citizens who have to get applications approved for live in maids, for handy men, for gardeners, for caregivers. So we have to troubleshoot to be sure we can respond in a timely fashion to their needs and I regret the fact that it has come to the point where there is a public outcry over this and as minister, the officials and I are pledged to do the best we can to try and rectify this over time.”