Immigration DG says will take six months to fix passport system

People waiting to renew their passports were forced to wait outside the Immigration Department office at Plaza Glomac. Many immigration department branches nationwide face a shortage of passports, forcing them to turn away applicants. — Picture from Facebook user Sheena Prasannan
People waiting to renew their passports were forced to wait outside the Immigration Department office at Plaza Glomac. Many immigration department branches nationwide face a shortage of passports, forcing them to turn away applicants. — Picture from Facebook user Sheena Prasannan

PETALING JAYA, July 29 — Those intending to renew or apply for passports would have to endure long lines and wait hours ... for another six months.

The Immigration Department, in acknowledging a shortage of passports, said they expected the matter to be ironed out by January next year.

Its director-general Datuk Sakib Kusmi said the department was introducing new passports which would include more security features. However, the passports required extensive testing to ensure they meet international safety standards and are not damaged easily when used.

“The transition to this new version (of passports) cannot be done overnight. We need to ensure the new passports are near-perfect.

“The reasonable time for the transition is six months. The department and the vendor will ensure there is enough supply of passports.”

Sakib said there would be disruptions to Immigration services during this period that would “slow down the application process and production of passports”.

“We hope the public will understand and continue to support the efforts of the government to give the best services and providing world-class full-proof passports,’’ he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said he had instructed the Immigration Department to increase the number of passports to 20,000 daily and for them to be delivered to its offices nationwide following the passport shortage.

Zahid’s comments came following a series of reports on the passport shortage by Malay Mail since June 16.

Sakib said 20,000 passports were being supplied daily since Zahid made the announcement.

He added the National Printing Department (NPD) had increase its daily printing quota as ordered by the Home Ministry following an increase in the number of applications.

“Previously, the vendor could only provide between 5,000 and 10,000 passports per day but the printing has increased to 20,000 daily since Wednesday,” he added.

Sources had previously revealed the department struggled to cope with demand as they had insufficient stock of passports as a large number of the microchips embedded in the data page had defects.

Zahid, who is also home minister, said Datasonic Group Berhad — appointed to supply the biodata polycarbonate data page — would work closely with NPD to resolve the problem.

In a statement to the media on June 14, Sakib said the closing of immigration offices was not due to the shortage of passports and that the department has issued 206,716 passports since May.

The statement added Malaysian passports met requirements of the International Civil of Aviation Organisation.

Pending assemblyman Violet Yong said the Immigration branch at the Urban Transformation Centre in Kuching was supplied with passports on Wednesday but were all issued in a day.

However, she said she was unsure how many passports had been issued.

“I’ve been told the centre is out of stock again,” she said yesterday.

Yong added the Immigration office continued to process applications despite running out of passports, assuring applicants they would obtain their travel booklets within five days.

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