Ethiopia: Passport Tease

Over the past few months, Ethiopians heading to the Main Department for Immigration & Nationality Affairs Office to renew their passports or obtain new ones have found out that it is not as easy as it used to be.

The authorities are now demanding not only identification cards but are requiring documentation proof of hotel bookings, invitation letters, scholarship awards or certificates of competence from an employment agency to prove the applicant will be traveling soon. But still, applicants are complaining that they are facing hardships in obtaining approvals for their new or renewal passport applications, even after they have presented the requested documentation.

The new requirements have been introduced in a bid to curb illegal migration, especially to the Middle East. The change was implemented to help reduce migration to countries that do not require visas from Ethiopia and to curb them from crossing borders to other countries once they arrive at their authorized destinations.

"The main aim is to help fight illegal migration and smuggling, not to confuse people," Alembirhan Tafesse, public relations officer at the National Immigration & Nationality Affairs Office, stressed.

The new requirements are also expected to help the Office narrow down individuals for whom passport issuances could be prioritised. Since passports can only be printed on imported materials and there is a scarcity of foreign currency, the Office has tried to limit issuing passports to individuals with health problems, scholarship winners and licensed importers.

This excludes citizens that want to renew or get a passport without any immediate travel plans. As a result, the Office's branch in Addis Abeba has been able to reduce the number of daily applicants from over 500 to between 200 and 300. You can read the full Agenda here.

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