- Updated by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 0924 EAT on Wednesday 6 2022.
Many Ugandans missed the April 4 deadline to acquire e-passports. That means their old passports are effectively invalid travel documents.Godfrey Kambere, the commissioner of Immigration Control at the ministry of Internal Affairs, has warned that Ugandans who have not yet upgraded to the new e-passport should forget travelling out of the country after the expiry of the April 4 deadline to migrate to the new e-passport.Kambere made the warning during an interview with The Observer on April 4. The government started issuing the new e-passport on December 7, 2018, in compliance with the new international civil aviation organization (ICAO) guidelines. An initial deadline of December 31, 2021, was extended a further three months owing to disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.Now that the deadline has passed, Kambere says that those with old passports will not be able to travel out of the country using the old documents.“Anyone who chooses to exit the country is encouraged to acquire the e-passport. Only those who are returning to Uganda will be allowed to use the old ones,” Kambere says.To ease this transition and meet the high demand of people seeking e-passports, Kambere says the Directorate of Immigration Control is doubling its efforts to meet the growing demand for e-passports.“We have increased enrollment centers at our regional offices in Mbale, Mbarara, Gulu and will soon operationalize Jinja and Arua centers,” he says.Kambere further says the ministry of Internal Affairs has revised operations by beefing up the enrollment centers. The working hours have also been readjusted to ensure that ministry officials deal with clients until the last one from that day’s quota leaves.For those in the diaspora, enrollment centers have been set up at Ugandan embassies to cater to people who are looking to upgrade to e-passports. Currently, only foreign missions in London and Washington are handling these transitions with the missions in Ottawa in Canada, Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Pretoria in South Africa, Copenhagen-Denmark, and the one in Beijing, China all expected to follow suit soon.According to Kambere, citizens in the diaspora who are in countries where the machines have not been deployed yet can coordinate the process from the embassies nearest to them and use a courier service or diplomatic bag to have the process finalized. “In cases where one wants to use someone back in Uganda to process their application, a letter of recommendation from any embassy is enough to process the application through their relative,” says Kambere.Kambere also told The Observer that since the issuance of the new passport by the ministry started in 2018, more than 692,414 passports have been issued. Broken down into categorizations, 689,473 Ugandans have received ordinary passports, 1,103 have received service passports and a further 1,838 have received diplomatic passports.Asked about the delays experienced by some applicants for the e-passports, Kambere says such scenarios befall a few individuals and such cases are isolated.“The numbers are up now because everyone thought that issuance will stop. Even those who don’t have emergency travel have now started coming to renew their passports. Every Ugandan who uses this travel document is entitled to process it. People with complaints can bring them forward and we investigate why they have taken longer because the client charter is very clear how long the passport takes to be processed,” he says