November 24 deadline for machine readable passports

Philippines already converting MRPs to e-passports

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The Indian, Philippines and Nepal Embassies in Abu Dhabi said they expected a smooth conversion of handwritten passports held by their nationals into Machine Readable Passports (MRPs) before the November 24 deadline.

As Indian missions in the UAE started issuing MRPs in April 2006, the majority of around 2.6 million Indians here have already got MRPs, a senior official at the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi told Gulf News on Tuesday. Around 20,000 Indian passports are issued a month in the UAE. As Indians had to get a new passport for miscellaneous services such as endorsing spouse’s name, many handwritten passports were converted into new MRPs, he said. “Still, we expect a few thousands of applicants for MRPs in the coming months. We urge them not to wait until the last minute,” the official said.

The Nepalese Embassy estimates that around 5,000 Nepalese may have to convert their handwritten passports to MRPs.

Of an estimated 300,000 Nepalese in the UAE, a large number of them reached here with MRPs during the past five years as Nepal started issuing MRPs since December 26, 2010, a top diplomat said.

The embassy has already issued 70,000 MRPs and 10,000 are under process, Dhananjay Jha, the Nepalese Ambassador to the UAE, said. Many handwritten passport holders apply for MRPs when they go on vacation in Nepal due to the lower cost there, he said. “But many employers in the UAE keep the passports of Nepalese workers. They have to release handwritten passports to the workers for conversion, otherwise the workers will lose their jobs [for being unable to renew visa],” Jha said.

The Philippine Embassy said of the estimated 600,000 Filipinos in the UAE, only a few hold handwritten passports. The Philippine missions started issuing MRPs in 2009 and switched to e-passports by 2010, Roseny Fangco, a senior consular official, said. “By this year, all MRPs would be expiring already. We are now using e-passports. We don’t expect a rush because, by now, 90 per cent of our applicants for passport renewal are already holding e-passports,” she said.

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