Minister Updates On Passport/U.S. Visa Issue

March 10, 2017

Minister of Home Affairs Patricia Gordon-Pamplin provided an update on the passport/visa issue in the House of Assembly today [March 10], saying that the Ministry is “working assiduously to find options that may assist in eliminating this problem.”

The Minister said, “We recently became aware that some Bermudians were experiencing additional questions or delays at some United States borders. We must clarify that this situation specifically affects persons who received passports printed after May 2016.

“The British Overseas Territories Citizen [BOTC] Bermuda passports affected are those printed by Her Majesty’s Passport Office [HMPO] in the United Kingdom. BOTC Bermuda passports that were printed by the Bermuda Passport Office, Department of Immigration are not affected.

“BOTC Bermuda passport holders who are specifically affected are those who may be trying to board airlines in other countries and are disembarking in the United States; or persons who have arrived at the US borders and are being processed. To our knowledge this is occurring periodically and not with every traveller. However, we are concerned that the complaints may begin to occur more frequently.

“The new BOTC Bermuda passport is readable and contains a biometric chip. However, the code that is causing the problem is “GBD” as opposed to “BMU” which used to be the code included on the passport data page.

“On the passports printed by the Bermuda Passport Office, the code, “BMU” appeared at the top of the data page as “the code of the issuing state” and was also the first three digit code in the machine readable line.

“This code has now been replaced with “GBD” which is the same code used for all overseas territories. It should be noted that most other overseas territories require a visa which adds to the confusion.

“I must stress that the decision to transfer the printing was not a decision made by Bermuda. As our passports are British passports, the edict came from HMPO and the transfer process has been on-going since 2010.

“I have also been advised that the concern regarding the change from “BMU” to “GBD” was raised with HMPO by the Bermuda Passport Office in their deliberations. Unfortunately the concerns were ignored.

“Since we became aware of the problems, we have been in discussions with HMPO, the Deputy Governor, the U.S. Consul General, and USCBP [Bermuda Office], with the aim of resolving the problem.

“In addition, the Honourable Premier has spoken to His Excellency, the Governor. The Premier’s concern led him to send a letter to the Minister responsible for the Overseas Territories, Baroness Anelay, expressing his desire that this issue be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“It is our fervent belief that actions taken by HMPO should not render our citizens less advantaged than what we enjoyed prior to this change. Therefore you can be assured that my Ministry is working assiduously to find options that may assist in eliminating this problem.

“I will continue to keep this Honourable House and the general public apprised of any further developments. However, until a resolution is achieved, I would advise travellers with a BOTC Bermuda passport issued after May 2016 may be asked to obtain a U.S. visa. In such cases, they are advised to cooperate with the authorities of various countries to avoid extreme delays in their travel plans.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, we recently became aware that some Bermudians were experiencing additional questions or delays at some United States borders. We must clarify that this situation specifically affects persons who received passports printed after May 2016. The British Overseas Territories Citizen [BOTC] Bermuda passports affected are those printed by Her Majesty’s Passport Office [HMPO] in the United Kingdom. BOTC Bermuda passports that were printed by the Bermuda Passport Office, Department of Immigration are not affected. This problem also does not affect any BOTC Bermuda passport holder who is being processed at the LF Wade International Airport. U.S. Customs and Border Protection [USCBP] officials at the LF Wade International Airport are fully aware of the new designation for Bermudians in the new BOTC Bermuda passports and are able to routinely process visa-free entry to the United States from Bermuda, per their standard practice.

BOTC Bermuda passport holders who are specifically affected are those who may be trying to board airlines in other countries and are disembarking in the United States; or persons who have arrived at the US borders and are being processed. To our knowledge this is occurring periodically and not with every traveller. However, we are concerned that the complaints may begin to occur more frequently.

Mr. Speaker, the new BOTC Bermuda passport is readable and contains a biometric chip. However, the code that is causing the problem is “GBD” as opposed to “BMU” which used to be the code included on the passport data page. On the passports printed by the Bermuda Passport Office, the code, “BMU” appeared at the top of the data page as “the code of the issuing state” and was also the first three digit code in the machine readable line. This code has now been replaced with “GBD” which is the same code used for all overseas territories. It should be noted that most other overseas territories require a visa which adds to the confusion.

Mr. Speaker, I must stress that the decision to transfer the printing was not a decision made by Bermuda. As our passports are British passports, the edict came from HMPO and the transfer process has been on-going since 2010. I have also been advised that the concern regarding the change from “BMU” to “GBD” was raised with HMPO by the Bermuda Passport Office in their deliberations. Unfortunately the concerns were ignored.

Mr. Speaker, since we became aware of the problems, we have been in discussions with HMPO, the Deputy Governor, the U.S. Consul General, and USCBP [Bermuda Office], with the aim of resolving the problem. In addition, the Honourable Premier has spoken to His Excellency, the Governor. The Premier’s concern led him to send a letter to the Minister responsible for the Overseas Territories, Baroness Anelay, expressing his desire that this issue be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Mr. Speaker, obtaining a U.S. visa could reduce or eliminate additional questions at international borders due to the elimination of Bermuda’s unique designation code. I must add that this situation is not due to any changes in USCBP procedures and U.S Immigration Law relating to Bermudians’ admission into the United States. The decision to apply for a visa is up to each individual traveller. Each traveller, while contemplating whether they should apply for a U.S. visa, should also give due consideration to the fact that the U.S. Consulate has processing timelines that they adhere to. Prospective applicants should follow instructions on the U.S. Consulate’s website.

Mr. Speaker, It is our fervent belief that actions taken by HMPO should not render our citizens less advantaged than what we enjoyed prior to this change. Therefore you can be assured that my Ministry is working assiduously to find options that may assist in eliminating this problem. I will continue to keep this Honourable House and the general public apprised of any further developments. However, until a resolution is achieved, I would advise travellers with a BOTC Bermuda passport issued after May 2016 may be asked to obtain a U.S. visa. In such cases, they are advised to cooperate with the authorities of various countries to avoid extreme delays in their travel plans.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (15)

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  1. NO MORE WAR says:

    Shouldn’t this issue have been sorted by now. Come on what’s the real deal here? All it should take is the stroke of a pen and a phone call. IJS.

    • This would have never happened under P.L.P.
      Ever since Faye got involved with sending our passports overseas to get proccessed, its been caos.
      Hurry up and call an election.

      • aceboy says:

        Don’t make me laugh.

      • Happy says:

        From the article:

        “Mr. Speaker, I must stress that the decision to transfer the printing was not a decision made by Bermuda. As our passports are British passports, the edict came from HMPO and the transfer process has been on-going since 2010″

      • Andrew Dice Clay says:

        I guess reading skills are not great for everybody. In the article above it says

        “I must stress that the decision to transfer the printing was not a decision made by Bermuda. As our passports are British passports, the edict came from HMPO and the transfer process has been on-going since 2010.

        Well perhaps spelling is your strong point…..

        Oops, the name is spelt Fahy, not Faye.

        I once read a saying;

        Best to keep quiet and be thought of as an idiot then to open your mouth and remove all doubt

  2. Skyking says:

    I recently had to get a new passport at a cost of $160 dollars only to find out that if I required a visa I would have to pay an additional $160 dollars that is what the u.s. Charge.What I would like to have explained to me is who was the idiot in our immigration department who did not know that the code would be different when the passports were printed in the u.k.
    I am a senior citizen and this is ridiculous.Senior citizens used to get a discount but this stopped when the u.k.said we had to have our passports printed over there.So once again senior citizens get the short end of the stick.Why should I have to pay for the visa when it is the governments mistake.

    • Real Talk (original) says:

      “I have also been advised that the concern regarding the change from “BMU” to “GBD” was raised with HMPO by the Bermuda Passport Office in their deliberations. Unfortunately the concerns were ignored.”

    • mr g says:

      to my knowledge….if you have a Bermuda Passport printed in London with the GBD then when you clear US Customs you would have to fill out the I94 form plus have your picture taken and your finger prints…..you dont have to apply for a Visa to the consulate and pay $160.00..oh and you have to do the ESTA before you arrive in the USA…

    • Andrew Dice Clay says:

      Errr

      Best to be thought of as an idiot then to open your mouth and remove all doubt

      • 4Real says:

        Why blame the Department of Immigration staff member when such a hughe decision should have been overseen by at least the Permanent Secretary of this Ministry let alone the Minister!!!!

  3. ESS ESS DEE says:

    Ummm Perhaps if Patricia wrote the letter to the overseas Minister using her preferred language of EFFs it might get someones attention. Ujs…..one good effin off should do the trick.

  4. Joe Bloggs says:

    It is not a Government mistake. It is a direct result of corruption in islands to our south and the UK’s desire not to be tainted with stench of its wayward children.

    It is not only Bermuda, all dependent territories and Crown Dependencies are affected.

  5. Triangle Drifter says:

    This issue has been known for almost a year now & all we get from the local passport office is Shaggy saying “It wasn’t me.” Fine. That can be accepted but here we are almost a year later & it has not been fixed.

    What is worse the mistake is costing Bermuda travellers thousands because some civil servant somewhere changed the coding & NOBODY picked up on it & reversed it in good time.

    The Minister has not said much. What is the status now? Has the coding been changed back on passports in the process of being renewed now or are people getting new passports right now running the risk of hassels & delays at US border crossings from Homeland Security people who are doing their job given what is in front of them?

    I don’t expect a problem from BDA pre-clearance. They know what is going on. It is the border crossing at someplace like Portal, North Dakota that is the problem. Agents there have barely heard of Bermuda.

    This has dragged on for more than enough time to be fixed. Stop the buck passing & get it done.

  6. Defendor says:

    Do people not think that bringing the uighurs with out approval (thanks Dr brown) here has nothing to do with the UK removing our ability to issue our own passports.

  7. Real Deal says:

    Why do we need to spend our moneys in the Usa away? diversify your travel and business plans. if it Medical care keep in mind most of the Doctors over there are not even born there. So if you shop else where they will migrate.