I needed to renew my passport. I have never renewed my passport myself but I decided to brave the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency located at Constant Spring Road on my own instead of having a travel agency do it for me. I assumed that it would not be a quick process and again assumed that it would take about two hours to get this done.
This account has been written for the uninitiated (as I was on Monday 16 February). I arrived at the office a few minutes before 11 a.m. First, note there is no parking. I drove in where I saw the sign “IN”. A car was ahead of me and it proceeded through the section marked “OUT” so I assumed there was nowhere to park. I went to the arcade next door and I was asked nicely if I could park there and the man let me know he thought I was doing business in the arcade but he was going to give me a “bly”.
Parking secured nearby, I went through the entrance for the public and proceeded to the first door that I got to. There was a security guard there who after being told what my business there was directed me to the back of the building where I would see another security guard. I told this other security guard the nature of my business and he gave me a number and directed me to the back of that building. Once I got there, I saw a tent that was filled with people sitting and waiting. In addition there were persons standing along the wheelchair access ramp as that was the only other shade save for the tent and a tree in the parking lot. I stood on the wheelchair ramp for a while as numbers were called and persons made their way into the building. Eventually I got a chair under the tent. The tent had about 50 chairs.
Some hours later my number was called and I filed into the building which also had chairs that were all filled and there were people standing inside. Some of these persons had come inside as the afternoon sun had now depleted the shade that was on the wheelchair ramp. I was placed in a line based on my number and one by one our documents were checked. Only one person was carrying out this activity at the time. I was given a number based on the service I required (regular or express) and told to have my documents photocopied (this again was being done by one individual). After copying someone came and called a set of numbers including mine and I was ushered to the back of the first building I had come across. There, a security guard gave me a new number and I went inside and sat waiting for my number to be called. Eventually after a not so long wait I was at the counter where the actual process takes place. After a few minutes I was again waiting for my number to come up to pay for my passport at the cashier. I did not hear my number and numbers after my number were called so eventually I went up to the cashier. He insisted that he had been calling the numbers. I can only surmise that perhaps he called it while I was still sitting at the counter getting my documents checked etc. The whole process where I actually interacted with PICA staff was less than 30 minutes (maybe less than 20) the rest was waiting. I got my receipt and walked out at 3 p.m. 4 hours later.
For my observations, there are no special provisions for the elderly and persons with children, especially small children. Again this is from my observations. One woman was there with her child who was sick and I narrowly missed being vomited on. Another woman was not so lucky. Almost everybody comes with an entourage (I am not including minors who have to be accompanied in this lot). The entourage cannot go to where the actual processing takes place so they fill the chairs waiting for the person with legitimate business there. The staff and security personnel were pleasant and there was a sign directing you to the bathrooms. I noticed that there was a box for you to vote for PICA in the Customer Service competition. For PICA to have my vote; however, they would need to make some adjustments. Here are some things I think they can consider. Start giving appointments for passport services. If you do not have an appointment you do not get in through the front gate. In cases of emergencies, there should be a special desk/counter set up for that. They should increase the staff doing the initial checks and have special provisions for the elderly, minors as well as persons with small children who are getting passports for themselves and not necessarily the children. They could also consider allowing you to upload your form and documents online and making online payments.
On a lighter note, there are always persons who do not mind telling their life story to strangers. There was the woman who was not going to give the US Embassy any more of her money who was there sorting out her son’s passport so that he can go and run. There were also the ladies whose friend or relative apparently just had a baby/is pregnant and is in hospital and they want to know why she does not call the baby’s father for what he needs instead of them. There was also the man who was singing during the wait to pass the time. Four hours is a long time to people watch. I had intended to read but the conditions were not conducive.