Dubai: Handwritten Indian passports and those issued by regional centres in India continue to take a longer time for renewal, causing frustration for many expatriates in Dubai, said applicants.
However, the machine-readable passports and those issued at Indian missions in the UAE are renewed within a week’s time.
One of the handicaps that is not allowing faster renewal of passports issued in India is a lack of a central database from where information about the applicants can be verified and processed, said an official at the Indian Consulate General in Dubai .
“Until 2002 the passports were handwritten and there was no central database where the records could be stored. When we get applications for renewal of passports that are issued at regional passport offices in India, we don’t have the means to verify the information, hence we send the applications to the respective centres,” said A.K. Bharadwaj, Passport Consul at CGI Dubai.
However, he added that those passports issued after 2002 are machine-readable and their data is available in the central database, meaning it can be verified and renewed quickly.
Though the Consulate General of India (CGI) in Dubai receives around 400 passport applications a day through its outsourced agent BLS International, Bharadwaj insisted there is no backlog that is causing a delay.
“We don’t have a backlog beyond a day or two. As soon as we receive the applications from BLS all the applications are processed promptly. We have a dedicated staff of around 30 members who look after different aspects of passport processing, so there can’t be any backlog,” he explained.
When cases of mistakes and inefficiency on the part of the appointed agent were pointed out, Bharadwaj was quick to brush these aside saying that those are one off cases, adding that BLS is doing a fine job and they have the experience of doing the job, having a tie up with several Indian missions across the world.
“A year ago when they took over from Empost, there were a few teething issues but now they have settled down and there are fewer complaints,” he insisted.
However, people have other stories to tell. The stories are those of inefficiency, discourteousness and misinformation.
“When I received my daughter’s passport last year, I initially didn’t realise there was a mistake but later on I saw that the gender typed on the passport was male, which is wrong. When I approached BLS they were not very helpful, they don’t provide proper information and I wasted two days going back and forth between the BLS office and the consulate,” said an annoyed Mohammad Khalid.
Another customer, who had applied for an urgent passport renewal and a change in signature simultaneously, says his application was bungled up.
He alleges that not only did he not receive his passport late, his signature was mixed up.
“I had cancelled out my old signature with a clear stroke across it and had given them a new one, instead of scanning the new one on the passport they had scanned the cancelled signature on the new passport. Good that I saw it immediately. If I had travelled with that passport, I could have been charged with forgery,” said the miffed applicant.
Though BLS officials refused to comment on the issue, Bhardwaj admitted it is a mistake on the part of the agent but insisted it is just a one off case.
He urged people to verify the details of their passports as soon as they receive it and approach the consulate in case of any mistakes.
He also said that those with old handwritten passports which usually have a validity for 20 years can have it replaced with machine-readable ones any time.
“The old passport can be renewed any time. People need not wait for the expiry date to renew it, though there is no harm in doing that,” he informed.
The handwritten passports or those issued by regional passport offices require 40 days for renewal.
All information regarding passport and visa applications can be found at the consulate’s website, cgidubai.com.