Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News/Clifton Skelton
New fees at the Civil Registry and Passport Office kicked in from September 1, but upon showing up at the office, many contract workers were stunned to lean that the fees for an entry visa had increased from $25 to $175.
Several persons have contacted BVI Platinum News to complain about being unaware of the new fees. Persons particularly questioned the increase for the entry visa, which they indicated will have to be processed annually and will affect a large number of expat workers.
"I usually paid $25, but when I turned up today I was shocked to learn that the cost had gone up to $175. That is a lot of money to be paying every year for visa. I am not one to say how the fees should have been introduced, but at least they could have gradually increased the fees over a period of time," a resident told BVI Platinum News.
According to the new fee structure, the issuing of the visa is $150 while the processing cost $25.
Registrar General of the Civil Registry and Passport Office, Stephanie Benn was not immediately available for a comment.
The new fees were approved by Cabinet and later published in the Gazette on October 11, 2011 as an advance notice. On July 26, 2012 the House of Assembly paved the way for the introduction of the new fees by passing the Statutory Rates, Fees and Charges (Amendment of Schedule).
Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon. Dr. Orlando Smith told the House of Assembly on July 26, that from time to time it is necessary that rates and fees are changed to reflect circumstances that exist. He noted that the fee variations were approved by both the Virgin Islands Party administration and his Cabinet.
"In this particular resolution, we are eventually trying to change fees...passport and civil registry. This resolution and the changes reflected here were passed in the Cabinet in September of last year and it was gazetted, so it was made known to everyone," Premier Smith had stated.
He pointed out that a number of fees would be affected including emergency passport documents, entry visa, application for naturalization, marriage licenses, registration of births and deaths.
Speaking more on the fees, the Premier said when the fees were being revised, there were compared to Anguilla, Bermuda and Cayman Islands. He said for example, for the issuing of an ordinary passport in the Virgin Islands, it was $40.00, but in Anguilla it is $100.00, $66.00 in Bermuda and in Cayman Islands, $60.00. According to the Premier, the BVI is now proposing that the fees go to $100.00.
"That is basically in keeping with what is obtained in other countries," the Premier pointed out.
The Premier had also indicated that the current administrative services for forwarding applications for UK passports in the VI is $20.00; Anguilla $40.00; Bermuda $82.00; and Cayman $40.00. The BVI is increasing that fee to $40.00.
Premier Smith had said that issuing of certificates or identity cards locally for Belongers was $30.00, while in Anguilla the cost goes up to $600.00; Bermuda $30.00; and Cayman $30.00. The new fees in the BVI is $100.00.
The Premier told the House that the Civil Registry and Passport Office has invested a lot into modernizing its services and it is important that the new fees be applied.
"This is important because the passport and civil registry has gone to considerable expense to modernize their operations and I am told now that the processes that they have instituted are an example for the rest of the Government departments...The processes that they have instituted incurred a significant cost in doing that, also to process any application it takes work; hence, the need to apply an application fee...As I said, these fees are well within reasonable limits," the Premier told the House.