Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Roosevelt Skerrit, has revealed that the time when Dominicans will be able to travel with Electronic passports is on the horizon.

The passports will contain the biological data of the holder.

Skerrit made the disclosure while responding to questions raised by the Opposition on identity information requested by the United States for travellers entering that North American country. He revealed that the government is on the “threshold” of signing the agreement with a firm from the European Union to begin, by the first quarter of 2018, the issuance of these electronic passports.

The Prime Minister noted that the only reason that this agreement has not yet been signed is because of a pre-existing agreement with regard to passports and an escape clause had to be looked at.

“We have taken the decision to proceed with the issuance of electronic passports in Dominica. As a matter of fact the country has come to the cabinet,” he said on Kairi’s ‘Next Level’ program over the weekend. “The only reason why we have not signed the agreement with this international firm is because we had an existing agreement for the machine passports that [was] not affirmed. So we had to go through this legal contract to look at the escape clause.”

Skerrit noted that the new measure will enhance passport security as every passport will have a “chip” with all of the holder’s bio data so that when one goes to the U.S. as early as next year, for example, he/she will no longer need to have their picture taken or any fingerprints done.

“Your passport would have that information. All information about you that is personal to you, it enhances the security of our passports and that presentation was done by a firm from the European Union. We negotiated the agreement, it has been reviewed by the Electoral Office, approved by the cabinet and we are just on the threshold of signing the agreement,” he said.

Electronic driver’s licenses are also in the cards, according to the Prime Minister.

“The intention is for you to have your bio data on your driver’s license. So if you are using [it] to travel, you also have the same data on it. We also will be improving the security features at the gate of naturalization. So the U.S. is asking us whether we have electronic passports, we say no but we explain o them that we are on the threshold of signing,” Skerrit stated.

The answer to the United States’ question of whether or not there are plans to introduce such an initiative in Dominica was “yes,” Skerrit affirmed and said he anticipates that the agreement will be signed by the first week of September 2017 which would indicate that Dominica may be one of the first countries in CARICOM to engage this venture.