File photo of an SVG passport.

The Government says it is moving to strengthen the St. Vincent and the Grenadines passport and has entered into an EC$3.5 million contract with the Canadian Bank Note Company to design and produce an enhanced ePassport.

“Work is well-advanced on this project, and it is expected that by the end of the first quarter of 2014, an even more secure travel document, the ePassport, will be available for issue to our nationals,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said in his Budget Speech on Monday.

He also said that renovations for a relocated Immigration Office costing EC$1 million are being done to the upstairs, and an area downstairs, of the former D’s Services Building on Bay Street, Kingstown, which the Government purchased.

Gonsalves said that this renovated Immigration Office will be furnished optimally to provide the best possible working and service environment for the staff and public, alike.

“This facility will complement the recently-modernised and upgraded Electoral Office in the downstairs of the same building. This is part and parcel of the on-going process of providing upgraded facilities and accommodation for the delivering of vital public services to the public,” Gonsalves said.

In late 2013, Ottawa imposed visa restrictions for Vincentians travelling to Canada, citing the large number of refugee claims and the integrity of the Vincentian passport.