By Simon Abaho
Ugandans with old passports are left with less than six months to be able to renew their travel documents or else they will not be able to fly or travel out of the country, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has said.
Following the introduction of the new East African E-passport, government has mulled plans to have the old machine-readable passports phased out for the new ones.
Addressing journalists on Monday, the Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesperson, Jacob Siminyu said it is only six months to the April, 4, 2022 date when the old passports expire and urged members of the public to get new passports.
“It is only six months to the deadline of phasing out the old unreadable passports. If you have a passport that expires in not more than six months, you will not get a visa or air ticket to fly out of the country,”Siminyu said.
He explained that according to international air transport standards, a person with a passport whose expiry is in six months’ time and below is not allowed to get a visa and air ticket, adding that the same is soon being effected on holders of old Ugandan passports.
“That time is soon coming. Any Ugandan with an old passport is soon being denied a visa or ticket for holding a passport whose expiry comes in less than six months. It is high time you renewed your passports in time.”
The Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesperson also advised that every Ugandan should have a passport ready at all times but not wait for time of travel to process the documents.
“What happens in Uganda is that people first get flights and then process passports. If you get a flight without a passport, you don’t deserve to travel because you are not serious and prepared,” Siminyu said.
East African passports
On March 2, 2016, the East African Community heads of state launched the new generation EAC e-passport and directed that its issuance takes effect from January 1, 2017.
The heads of state further directed that the partner states should implement a phase-out programme for the East African and national passports from January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2018.
However, owing to procurement rigours, issuance could not start as per the directive.
Since December 18, 2018, the government of Uganda has been issuing the EAC e-passport and in effect started the phase-out programme of the Ugandan national passport.
The two travel documents have however, remained in use concurrently until April,4, 2022 after an extension of the deadline.
Government also moved passport applications online, a process that is quicker since it doesn’t need one to get recommendations from local leaders as was the procedure in the past.
The new online system is integrated with the National Identity Registration Authority-NIRA where information on national IDs is used for the passport.