The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) says it has a revised regulation governing the administration and issuance of Liberian passports as well as revised regulations on Honorary Consuls of the Republic of Liberia.
Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan told a news conference Thursday that the crafting of 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.
He said the revised regulations are in conformity with the Executive Law as well as to strengthen the Foreign Ministry's resolve in the issuance of passport and appointing its Honorary Consuls by clearly delineating the procedures for application for the position.
Minister Ngafuan said, like other cabinet ministers, he signed a Performance Contract with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf about three months ago in which he committed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to achieve 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 Ministry's targets," Minister Ngafuan told journalists.
Speaking at the joint news conference at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism Thursday, Minister Ngafuan noted that the revised regulations on Liberian passports provide for four (4) categories including Ordinary, Service, Official, and Diplomatic Passports.
The Liberian Foreign Minister said, with the exception of Ordinary Passport that will be issued for a period of five years, all other categories of passports will be issued for a period of two years.
Minister Ngafuan 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, he said they are privileged passports and will be issued to certain categories of individuals as spelled out in the regulations.
"Requests for Diplomatic, Official and Service Passports for individuals that are in Government will emanate from the Heads of the Institution", he added.
He, therefore, advised heads of government institutions to ensure that Diplomatic and Official Passports issued to officials of their institutions are used on travels of official nature.
According to the revised regulation, 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).
He stated that Laissez-Passez 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.
Minister Ngafuan disclosed that all issued Laissez Passezs, according to the revised regulation, shall have validity not beyond 90 days.
Relating to the revised regulation 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.
The Liberian Foreign Minister said those failing to submit the required report and documents for re-vetting by January 15, 2013 would automatically forfeit their status as Honorary Consuls of the Republic of Liberia.
"Non-Liberian Honorary Consuls will not be entitled to Liberian Diplomatic Passport and Honorary Consuls of Liberia will now serve for a tenure of three years, subject to renewal", he said.
According to Minister Ngafuan, the newly issued Revised Regulations also stipulate those 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.
Minister Ngafuan said stringent vetting procedure has been added to include background and security checks by the National Security Agency and the Ministry of Justice, adding that a thorough evaluation by a nine-member Standing Committee on Honorary Consuls (SCHC)has been composed.
He said the committee, among others, will include 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.