On Thursday 5 May the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr George W. Vella, launched the project Consul-on-the-Move. The project will facilitate the collection of biometric passport applications for Maltese living abroad. It will also enable the Maltese communities abroad to avail themselves of all Consular services normally found at Embassies and Consular Offices, in localities nearer to them. This project conforms with the Government’s vision to have governmental services nearer to the citizen.

The urgent need for such a mobile consular service had been raised by members of the Council for Maltese Living Abroad in the context of applications for biometric passports by Maltese citizens overseas who had to incur significant travel and accommodation expenses to apply for a Maltese passport. The topic had been discussed at several Council meetings.

Minister Vella said that five Consular Offices will be participating in this five-year pilot programme; Toronto, Washington, London, Rome and Melbourne.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs saw the need to work on this programme after the introduction of biometric passports, for which the applicant has to personally visit an Embassy or a Consular Office for biometric data to be collected. This was resulting in an inconvenience for the Maltese living abroad, especially elderly applicants, as they had to travel long distances to submit their applications in one of the Maltese Consular Offices, with added costs for travel, lodging, and other expenses.

This project was launched after an agreement was reached with the Passport Office in Malta to enable this ‘mobile service’ to take off. All applications will carry an extra payment of €100.

Several visits by the participating Consular Offices have been scheduled, particularly in regions with a high concentration of Maltese. These visits will be advertised on all forms of media which are popular and used by the Maltese Communities abroad. Consuls will also be visiting on Saturdays for more productive sessions and so that more applicants would be reached.

Minister Vella said that after a period of two years, the programme will be reviewed for its viability – which may lead to more Embassies and Consular Offices being added to the five already chosen.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr George W. Vella said that this project will not only serve to gather passport applications, but applicants can also take the opportunity to avail themselves of all Consular services normally found at each and every Embassy and Consular Office.