The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced with immediate effects the coming into existence of Revised Regulations Governing the Administration and Issuance of Liberian Passports and Revised Regulations on Honorary Consuls of the Republic of Liberia.
Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan during a news conference on Thursday said the crafting of the two important documents is in line with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' statutory responsibility to facilitate the fundamental rights of freedom of movement for all Liberian citizens in keeping with Chapter 20.3 (f) of the Executive Law as well as the Ministry's efforts to strengthen the Guidelines on Honorary Consul of 2009 by clearly delineating the procedures for application for the position of Honorary Consuls of Liberia.
The Foreign Minister, like other cabinet ministers, signed a Performance Contract with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf about three months ago in which he committed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to achieving a host of targets. The review and improvement of the integrity of the processes and procedures for the issuance of all categories of Liberian passports and the appointment of Honorary Consuls were first and foremost among the Foreign Minister's targets.
Minister Ngafuan told the joint news conference at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT) that the Revised Regulations on Passports provide for four (4) categories of Liberian Passports including Ordinary, Service, Official, and Diplomatic Passports.
All other categories of passports will be issued for a period of two years with the exception of Ordinary Passports that will be issued for a period of five years.
The Foreign Minister explained that Ordinary Passports will be issued only to natural born or naturalized Liberians in compliance with the Constitution of Liberia as well as the Alien and Nationality Law.
For Diplomatic and Official Passports, Foreign Minister Ngafuan said they are privileged Passports and will be issued to certain categories of individuals as spelled out in the Regulations, adding that requests for Diplomatic, Official and Service Passports for individuals that are in Government will emanate from the Heads of the Institution.
He therefore advised Heads of Government institutions to put in necessary controls at their respective institutions to ensure that Diplomatic and Official Passports issued to officials of their institutions are used strictly on travels of an official nature.
According to the revised regulations, passport applicants will pay a fee of US$23.00 for any category of passport obtained at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia while a fee of US$200.00 or its equivalent is being charged for passports issued outside of the country. Already, Liberian Biometric ECOWAS Passports have been launched and are currently being issued in the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK).
Laissez Passer which will cost US$10.00 shall be issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Liberia's Embassies and Consulates on a case by case basis for emergency travels to Liberians and foreigners who were born in Liberia and desire to travel to their countries of nationality for the purpose of obtaining proper travel documents. All issued Laissez Passers, according to the revised regulations, shall have validity not beyond ninety days.
Relating to the Revised Regulations on Liberian Honorary Consuls, Foreign Minister Ngafuan said they stipulate more transparent and rigorous vetting, reporting, monitoring and termination procedures for individuals desiring to serve and/or serving as Honorary Consuls of the Republic of Liberia.
Minister Ngafuan stated that in order to curb abuses and the reputational risk suffered by the country on account of unwholesome individuals carrying the title of "Honorary Consul" of Liberia, the Ministry of Foreign is requiring all individuals presently serving as Honorary Consuls of Liberia to submit to the Ministry no later than January 15, 2013 a comprehensive report on their activities as Honorary Consul as well as all documents including letters of appointment, commissions, Exequaturs, among others from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Liberia and authorities of the Receiving State confirming their legitimacy as Honorary Consuls of the Republic of Liberia assigned in a particular geographic area.
The Liberian Foreign Minister said those failing to submit the required report and documents for re-vetting by the January 15, 2013 would automatically forfeit their status as Honorary Consuls of the Republic of Liberia.
Similarly, Minister Ngafuan stated that henceforth, non-Liberian Honorary Consuls will not be entitled o Liberian Diplomatic Passports and Honorary Consuls of Liberia will now serve for tenure of 3 years, subject to renewal.
According to Minister Ngafuan, the newly issued Revised Regulations also stipulate that individuals desirous of serving as Honorary Consuls of the Republic of Liberia may apply directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or upon recommendation by a prominent Liberian citizen, or through a Liberian Ambassador accredited to the country where the individual intends to serve as Honorary Consul or through a recommendation of an accredited and reputable Liberian association in the country where the individual intends to serve as Honorary Consul.
He disclosed that a more stringent vetting procedure has been added to include background and security checks by the National Security Agency and/or the Ministry of Justice and a thorough evaluation by a nine-member Standing Committee on Honorary Consuls (SCHC) composed of, among others, deputy ministers of Foreign Affairs, a member of the Policy Advisory Council of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Chief of Protocol of the Republic of Liberia and the Director General of the Foreign Service Institute.