Passport rule strands man in Trinidad
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Mar 17, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

Passport rule strands man in Trinidad

Canadian permanent resident needs machine-readable document to leave country of his birth.

OurWindsor.Ca

A Canadian permanent resident from Trinidad finds himself stuck in his homeland because his passport — dated to expire in 2017 — is no longer valid.

Virgil Green, who lives in Toronto, flew to Trinidad on Monday to spend the week with his ailing father. Upon arriving in Port of Spain, he said he was told by Caribbean Airlines staff that he would not be able to fly back to Canada unless he got a new machine-readable passport.

“First the customs agent told me I couldn’t return to Canada. But as I was passing security, another lady told me that it was protocol for the first customs agent to immediately send me back on a return flight to Pearson,” said Green, a waiter.

Since his arrival, Green said he’s spent much of his vacation not only applying for a scannable passport, but also for a new birth certificate — a document required in attaining a new passport. The cost of a new machine-readable passport is $250 in local currency, plus an additional fee to have the process expedited.

“Since Monday, I’ve been scrambling around for documents when really I should be spending time helping my dad,” Green said Wednesday. “They don’t follow protocol, ruin my vacation, and I’m caught in the middle of bureaucracy.”

According to the immigration office, the process for an expedited passport would take five to seven business days, a longer timeline than Green had anticipated with a return flight scheduled for Friday.

Trinidad changed its passports in 2007, requiring all nationals to have a machine-readable passport. It also gave them until November 2015 to make the change.

Green got a regular 10-year passport from Trinidad in 2007, before the switch to the machine-readable passport and he did not know the travel document is now invalid, said his wife, Jordan Tustin, whose sister Erika works at the Star.

A reservations clerk for Caribbean Airlines told the Star that reservations agents and ticketing agents for the airlines, including those in Toronto, have been instructed to tell all travellers they need a machine-readable passport. The airline also has the information on its website and had an extensive social media campaign about it, the reservations clerk said.

According to Dionne Ligoure, head of corporate communications for Caribbean Airlines, Green wouldn’t have encountered a problem getting on the plane in Toronto with the passport he had. “As far as I’m advised, the passenger is a national of Trinidad and Tobago and as such we would accept (him) for travel to Trinidad and Tobago because he’s returning to his home country,” said Ligoure.

But a return trip back to Canada requires a machine-readable passport in accordance with international regulations. The Star left messages with the vice-consul of immigration at the Trinidad and Tobago consulate in Toronto seeking comment about the rules surrounding machine-readable passports for Trinidadian nationals, but they were not returned.

The Star also contacted Global Affairs, formerly Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, to establish what obligations and responsibilities they have in the case of a permanent resident or Canadian resident who gets into such a situation. Department staff said they cannot provide assistance as this is a Trinidadian passport matter.

Green said he plans to go back to the passport office Thursday to try to sort things out, but remains “totally disappointed” with the whole process. “I’m going to see what hoops they’ll put in front of me tomorrow, but I’m definitely coming home. I’m going to get there.”

With files from Star staff

Toronto Star

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