Burma’s government has extended the validity of passports issued to the country’s citizens from three to five years, according to an official from the Myanmar Passport Issuing Office.
The official, Soe Htun Aung, told The Irrawaddy that the new five-year passports will be issued by Burmese embassies abroad and by passport offices in Rangoon and Mandalay.
“The service is for all Burmese citizens,” said Soe Htun Aung, adding that only those who submitted their applications after Nov. 1 will get the new five-year passports, which will take three weeks to process.
Burmese passport applicants welcomed the change, but said they are still unhappy with the length of time it takes to get a new passport.
One businessman in Rangoon said the process should be shortened. “It would also be good if they opened more branch offices, so people in other parts of the country don’t have to travel to Rangoon and Mandalay to apply for passports,” he added.
The government has already begun to make it more convenient to get a passport, opening the first passport-issuing office in Mandalay in July of this year.
With unemployment rife, Burmese have been leaving the country in droves in recent years. Some observers and migrant organizations estimate that as much as 10 percent of Burma’s 55 million population is now working abroad.
In 2008, the passport office in Rangoon issued 8,000 to 10,000 Burmese passports per month, with an average waiting time of 40 days.