- 2022 likely to be a record year with Department of Immigration issuing 590,260 passports during Jan-July; up 330% from a year ago
- Output of over 84,000 passports per month
- Over 140,000 persons take wings abroad for employment in 1H half of 2022
By Charumini de Silva
Sri Lanka has issued nearly 600,000 passports during the first seven months, indicating that the race to migrate for greener pastures has intensified amidst the economic crisis.
The latest data from the Immigration and Emigration Department shows that passport issuance in the first seven months of the year has increased sharply by 330% to 590,260 from 147,192 passports in the same period last year.
“We received a total of 101,777 applications for both one-day and normal service passports in July, and of it only 98,124 were issued during the month,” Immigration and Emigration Department Deputy Controller and Media Spokesperson Piyumi Bandara told the Daily FT yesterday.
As per the department's history, the highest number of passports issued was in 2016 at 658,725. Thus, the, 590,260 in the first seven months clearly indicates the high demand for passports and is likely to break that record.
The July passport issuance outcome is also a significant surge of 258% compared to 27,403 passports issued in the same period a year earlier. The data shows over 84,300 passports were issued monthly during the first seven months of the year.
In January 52,278, February 55,381, March 74,890, April 53,151, May 52,945, and June 122,491 passports were issued. June recorded the highest outcome of passports issued in any month during the year.
The pent-up demand for passports has seen a significant uptick from the latter part of 2021 with the ongoing economic crisis and multiple other challenges faced by the public on a daily basis. “Currently, the department receives over 4,000 appointments daily,” she added.
Given the recent long queues and backlog of applications, the department decentralised its one-day passport service to Kandy, Matara and Vavuniya regional offices from early July 2021. In the beginning, the decentralised one-day passport issuance service will be given to only 100 applicants who have already reserved an appointment and time at the specific regional offices.
Bandara also said the Department has requested the Public Administration Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, and Local Government Ministry to extend more manpower to meet the pent-up demand.
The new request was made despite the recently introduced two separate work shifts in place. The department staff begins the first shift from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the second shift from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Overcapacity has exhausted the staff, as the department has stepped up its daily issuance of passports from 2,000 to 3,500 at present.
Immigration and Emigration department has been in the media spotlight, as thousands of people who visit its head office in Battaramulla have faced multiple problems and undue delays in services over the last couple of months.
Sri Lanka’s demand for foreign employment has increased significantly over the past three months, as the hardships faced by all walks of life are escalating by the day. The latest external sector performance report by the Central Bank shows 140,701 people have gone abroad for employment in the first half of the year, whilst only 117,952 people had left for employment opportunities overseas for the entirety of 2021.
Total departures for foreign employment were recorded at 26,944 during June, a notable increase compared to 22,194 during May 2022. This includes the total departure of foreign employment in unskilled (9,317), skilled (7,977) and domestic aid (6,556) categories.