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Over 100 persons daily: Immigration workers frustrated too

Long lines outside the Immigration Department in Road Town. (Photo Credit: Andre ‘Shadow’ Dawson)

Amid complaints from members of the public about the infuriatingly tedious and lengthy Immigration process, Acting Chief Immigration Officer, Geraldine Ritter-Freeman has said her staff is frustrated too.

Ritter-Freeman said Immigration workers are now processing more than one hundred applicants daily in a building she effectively described as mouldy and cramped.

“Imagine seeing hundreds of people on a daily basis. The facility downstairs can only accommodate 30 at a time and when you have hundreds lining up at 8 o’clock in the morning, you can imagine the frustration,” she said.

“Space is a problem. I believe we have outgrown the space,” she added.

Ritter-Freeman said Immigration workers are also challenged because the department’s equipment was damaged during the major weather events last year.

She said the damage has made processing applicants considerably slow.

“All of our computers in the Processing Unit were damaged and so we have had to revert to a completely manual system which means going back to dealing with files; pulling files whenever a client comes through the door and that is very taxing not just for the persons that we are serving. It is also very taxing on the staff.”

Workers still diligent

However, the acting Immigration boss praised her staff for remaining professional.

She said they have been doing well despite the circumstances.

“The staff has been so accommodating. You can imagine when people are outside waiting for hours when they come into the department what kind of mood they might be in and we have managed under these pressures and the limited resources to process hundreds of applications on a daily basis.”

“So, while I know good news don’t sell all the time, I am happy to report that we are doing our best under the conditions,” Ritter-Freeman said.

The Immigration Department operates in the RJT Edifice in Road Town.

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33 Comments

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  1. ... says:

    Please if you can’t take the heat go back to gis or Premier Office

    • nonsense says:

      Building out grown in a few short years = poor planning.
      Cant cope with applicants when half the island has left = poor planning
      No back ups of files = poor planning

      The BVI constantly proves its inadequacies for the world to see.
      Set of jokers!

    • Strups says:

      Totally besides the point. She’s handled that quiet well. Now if you can’t take the heat. . .

  2. Wow says:

    Please its been 5 months. Tell govt that soppy story not the public. Its shameful and totally ridiculous what is happening in this Territory.

  3. Albion says:

    The core problem, which the CIO does not acknowledge, is that Immigration (and Labour) both require people to attend in person in order to process their papers. This is just crazy, and virtually no other country in the world does this. In almost all other places, you send your papers in, they process them when they get to them, and then they send them back to you or call you to collect them. A large number of countries you can even do it all online.

    As long as we insist on sticking to rigid and outdated procedures insisting that people turn up in person, we are going to have this crowding problem.

    It is not the space that immigration has outgrown. It is their systems. They just need to rethink how they do things, and come up with processes that work better with available resources.

    • WELL SAID says:

      Couldn’t have put it better.

    • watcher says:

      Very well put. And it applies throughout government departments. Outdated paper bound systems with people required to appear before civil servants who act
      like judges. This is not a first world state.

    • Island Man says:

      Am well pleased with your comment.
      I don’t understand after over 1000 foreigners has left, the space gets too small. What a shameful statement to hide their laziness.
      Its time to get people in the right jobs with modern technology.

    • eyes on says:

      True, The UK don’t needed us in person to renew or process or passport.

    • Well Wisher says:

      How about setting up an appointment system for a certain number of clients per day, that can be comfortably accommodated and seated inside the building. That should take care of the problem. Do not accept walk in. Think about it Mrs Freeman. Wish you all the best my dear.

  4. idea says:

    You didn’t outgrow the space. Expat population decreasing, it is just that your system is broke and you need to take action. You are running the department madame.
    Never the less, I sympathize with the immigration workers and the expats to have to endure this.

  5. easy process says:

    simplify the process and make things easier on everyone.

  6. xx says:

    I know many people are frustrated with the process, but I want to thank all the people who work there. I had to get my extension a few weeks ago and, yes I was there for several hours, but the staff was friendly and helpful and I am sure they’re just as stressed as the people they are processing.

    So thank you to the people who work there!

  7. A Better Virgin Islands says:

    Put the majority of the application process on-line. Super Simple.

  8. Ms wize says:

    Even if the workers are frustrated they don’t show it. They never chose a better time to put those staff at the front of the department. They are kind helpful and welcoming. 💕❤️. Oh cashier Thomas… Because of you everyone leave with a smile🤗👍

  9. Online Now says:

    Five months and you haven’t got new computers? Come on, that just doesn’t wash. How much for a new computer? Presumably the information was backed up on a server somewhere as well.

    Also, with the number of people employed by immigration, processing more than a hundred people a day should be easily possible. Especially as so many only need extensions while waiting for work permits or stamps after work permits issued.

    Sounds more like they need new leadership.

  10. Maggie says:

    It has always been like this! Paper files were in use twelve months ago.

    Please get up to date and then you will really be able to control all of those people you don’t want to let in!

  11. VI says:

    We are taking too long processing people’s files.
    They have to get that department in order.

  12. Think about it says:

    100 applications daily, 500 a week, 2000 a month? Really? Can’t be that many people. Why n to assign certain days to last names beginning with A-D, then E-H etc. Or have an appointment system…

  13. Political Observer (PO) says:

    No excuses. Immigration and Labour are service departments. If the demand out pace the avialble supply of services, extend/increase the supply of services. Expand operating hours during week days and on weekends(Saturday); pay overtime or award compensatory time. Until the demand get down to a manageable level, establish an appointment system for services so that customers don’t have to wait endless and frustrating hours for services.

    What is driving the increasing demand for services? Is it increased immigration since the storms? Why are volunteers having to line up to get time extended? Should not the local coordinating agency be handling the immigration issues? Surprise the volunteers have not vamos already.

  14. Longshanks says:

    Albion has hit a nail on the head above.

    However, I simply don’t believe that they were processing things on computers before. That doesn’t stack up with years of appearing before them and them looking through years of your paper files.

    They should do things using computers but they don’t.

    Based on my observations, some days they are at times processing 4 individuals per hour. Most days I do not believe that they are actually getting through 100 people, rather more like 50.

    But a substantial portion of the traffic are people getting extensions because the system is horrifically designed and implemented. Immigration will only give you an extension until your work permit is due. But inevitably labour will not have processed the work permit by the due date, so you have to obtain another extension, which will often be for a period of 1 to 2 weeks.

    Labour and immigration need to be integrated. You should apply (not in person) to labour and labour should co-ordinate with immigration so that when the work permit is ready it can be picked up without the requirement to see anyone and may be picked up by anyone authorised to do so on behalf of the applicant.

    Half the time is spent with the various departments processing payments. Solution – have the cheque (all inclusive) submitted with the application, refundable if refused.

    Ultimately the BVI should work towards an equivalent of VIRRGIN. It is such a shame that we have one of the world’s leading corporate registries, but have designed a system to thwart efficiency on internal matters.

    Finally, renewals should just require payment of a fee and be automatic unless there is a reason to re-examine a case.

  15. umm says:

    Prior to hurricane you could get your permit renewal down in a day. Now there are less people on island and it is taking some 3 days to do the same process….

  16. Disbelief says:

    Because the process is faulty and instructions poorly managed and communicated. Rather than give excuses give an honest attempt at rectifying aged old non-progressive policies.

  17. expat says:

    SUGGESTION, do an appointment system and charge 5 dollars to book and appointment so you can hire staff.

  18. Interested says:

    Why do we have all these people needing immigration services anyway.Thete are no jobs a available,so many laid off.Let them just go back home.

  19. Solution says:

    Change to BY APPOINTMENTS only. In that way, you will know who is coming and you can pull the files ahead of time.

  20. Longshanks says:

    One more thought. Since the new system, higher earners pay $10k for their permit. My bet is that there are at least 100 such people waiting for renewal. That’s $1,000,000 in uncollected fees. You could pay for 20 staff for a year and equip them all with new computers. Dedicate 10 of those staff for a day to clear the backlog (that’s about 1.4 renewals an hour – hardly difficult) and badabing you have a load of money in the bank.

    What’s the risk? That these people employed by the financial services industry will actually work here, pay taxes, NHI, rent houses, spend money in shops, restaurants and bars and help maintain the industry which keeps the Bvi going? The alternative is that this immense friction and frustration leads to them deciding eventually to do the same role from Cayman where they can practice BvI law, earn more, pay lower taxes, have better transport links, schools and infrastructure. Okay Cayman is nowhere near as nice as the BVI but create too many downsides and the upside starts to look overwhelming.

  21. musa say says:

    mold in wore place deport the workers

  22. Sam the man says:

    only a hundred a day? are you for real…and you can’t cope with that! either replace all your staff or get them properly trained to do a proper days work, my experience with immigration was a disaster as was most of my expat friends experience…you need to buckle down and improve otherwise skilled labour will just go elsewhere – to places that respect them and are grateful for what they do for the country…but you’d better act v quick as from what I hear many expats have just had enough of this incompetence and predudice

  23. eyes on says:

    if they don’t fix it fast,then you only will needed 5 immigrations ,for most depend on go else where.
    .

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