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Nov 29, 2017

Ministry Wanted Control of Visa Vetting to Satisfy Ministers

Maria Marin

Marin noted that despite the original desires expressed by Minister Godwin Hulse and then-C.E.O. Candelaria Saldivar-Morter to support a clean-up in the department, they clashed immediately over the approval of visa applications recommended and supported by Government Ministers. Marin says the Ministry demanded control despite new reforms put in place at the start of Marin’s tenure.

 

Maria Marin, Former Acting Director of Immigration

“The first opportunity for improvement came immediately upon moving into the director’s office, regarding the approval of visa applications. The process I encountered was a very haphazard one. So one of the first changes was to require that all applications follow the proper process, which entailed that they were reviewed for completeness, were accompanied by the relevant supporting documents, and were properly vetted. Additionally, the function of vetting these applications was separated from the Immigration Services Section, as this was the same section which accepted and reviewed the applications. The process was then assigned to the Investigation Section, which upon completion of the interview and due diligence, forwarded the applications with the vetting officers’ observations to the officer in charge of the Immigration Section for his or her recommendation, which then formed the basis for the Director’s approval. This separation of duties in the process was intended to allow for improved transparency, and it also served as an internal check and balance mechanism. These changes brought much discontent and did not bode well with those persons whose applications, it appeared, had previously not been required to follow any process whatsoever. I was subsequently advised by the substantive Minister that a specific process was to be followed for those visa applications recommended or supported by Ministers – a process which is evidenced by memorandums dated as early as April, 2013. This process involved among other instructions that, “all applications supported by ministers/caretakers would come to the ministry for initial vetting and the ministry will then hand over to the Director of Immigration under confidential cover.” I have a document that I can tender as evidence of this. Hence, the receipt of cover memos from C.E.O. to Acting Director with the names of applicants and by whom these applications were being submitted, supported or recommended, which in most cases were Ministers or caretakers. As the then-acting director, I insisted, however, that these applications undergo the newly implemented process of being complete, meeting requirements, having supported documents attached and being vetted. It was agreed also that they would be expedited within five working days.”

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