The Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration (DGIE) is a public institution of the Republic of Rwanda with the following mandate: a) issuing travel documents to Rwandans, b) issuance of entry visa, resident/work permits, and citizenship to foreigners, c) border management.
The DGIE serves Rwandans and people all over the world. The availability and access to its services was limited to physical presence of the clients at Immigration offices or at the few Diplomatic missions abroad. All services were manual which was costly in terms of distance covered and the frequency of visiting offices to acquire a service. A client applying for a passport would go through the following process: firstly would come to Immigration office to seek information regarding the requirements. Secondly he/she would fill application form and submit it with the prescribed fee. Then he/she would return after four weeks to check whether the passport was processed. If it was not ready for some reasons, he/she would be given appointment to come and clarify the outstanding issues before returning for passport collection. This is equivalent to 5 working days wasted for getting a passport. As a result, if a passport costs 50,000 Rwanda Francs (83USD), a person would spend an estimate of 75,000Frw (125 USD) for travel costs and in addition to time wasted.
For foreigners intending to travel to Rwanda, the situation was more difficult for them to acquire entry visa as they were required to either travel or send application documents by courier to Rwandan Embassies. This process was costly in terms of travel costs, time and security risks associated with mailing their travel documents. For instance, it was very difficult for an Australian intending to visit Rwanda as he/she needed to send documents to Japan which was the nearest Rwandan diplomatic mission to acquire a visa. Another alternative would be to risk traveling without the required visa, which was increasingly difficult especially after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA.
Both processes of issuing passports and visas were long and slow, and required a large number of staff. It involved a minimum of five steps starting from receptionist, registration, document verification, approval and archiving. The average number of passports produced and visas issued per month was 800 and 250 respectively which was very low compared to high demand of clients. Some Rwandans opted to travel without travel documents by sneaking through unauthorized crossing points while others opted not to travel out of the country. In the case of foreigners, they would risk traveling without entry visa sometimes being denied boarding planes by ground crew or being returned upon arrival.
Such situation could most often lead to corruption, nepotism and influence peddling. The manual system was a barrier to trade and disincentive to tourism industry thus leading to loss of revenues for the country. In this regard, electronic service delivery was recommended as a solution.