The Indian diplomatic missions in the UAE have managed to reduce the time taken for renewal of passports. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News archives

Abu Dhabi: Many Indian expatriates in the UAE whose passports were issued by a different Indian passport authority in the UAE or outside have a reason to cheer. They had to wait for 40 working days to renew their passports and it was even applicable to Abu Dhabi residents whose passports were issued from Dubai and vice versa. Now the Indian diplomatic missions in the UAE have managed to reduce the time taken for renewal of such passports to just five working days, a top Indian diplomat told Gulf News in an interview.

“We started renewing all passports within five working days [if applicants fulfil all legal requirements] from the beginning of this month,” T.P. Seetharam, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE, said. He said this is applicable to passports issued by all other Indian passport authorities in India and abroad, including the Indian Consulate in Dubai.

Many Indian residents were delighted to hear this news. Haneefa Sulaiman, 47, who runs a travel agency in the capital, said he waited more than 40 days in June 2015 to renew his passport issued from Dubai. “I was raising this issue with the embassy always. I did not understand why it took 40 [working days] for the embassy to verify the data stored at its consulate in Dubai or to get necessary approvals from there, given the technological advancements of our time,” he said.

Reached the UAE 29 years ago, he had renewed his passports from the Indian Consulate in Dubai while living in Ajman for 21 years. He moved to Abu Dhabi around eight years ago and he said he came across many people like him. “At least now, this is done in five days and I am happy that this will benefit many fellow Indians,” Sulaiman said.

Vinod Sreedharakkurup, 41, an accounts manager in the capital, said he had to apply for Tatkal (emergency service) and shell out an additional Dh570 last year to overcome the 40-day delay while renewing his passport issued from Kochi in India. He came to Abu Dhabi ten years ago and he knew many people who spent extra money to avoid the delay. “Now I am happy that people can save money and time. I appreciate it,” Sreedharakurup said.

The ambassador said Indian residents in Abu Dhabi can approach the embassy immediately if their passports were not renewed within five days, via email cons@indembassyuae.org or cons1@indembassyuae.org.

He said the backlog caused by many technical reasons during the past few months was cleared by the end of May. The consular staff worked extra hours during May to ensure that there were no pending applications. There was a delay in delivery of passports in May as the courier company assigned for the task had to handle three times more passports as compared to previous months.

As the current term of BLS, the outsourced agency for handling passport applications in the UAE, ends by the end of August, Seetharam said the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi has constituted a committee to examine the bids submitted by various agencies for the upcoming term. The committee will take a decision in this regard, he said. As Gulf News reported recently, the Indian Consulate in Dubai issues 16,000 to 18,000 new passports every month. The figures from the embassy were not available.

Police clearance causes delay

The issued related to police verification [in India] of the applicant causes delay in passport renewal of Indians in the UAE, consular officials at the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi told Gulf News on Thursday. There is no mandatory police verification for passport renewal. However, if the police verification report during the issuance of the first passport was not perfect [lacking proper address or any other details], an adverse remark will be there with the applicant’s file on the passport system. If a person is wanted by the police or court in India in a criminal case, this will also reflect on the system. Such passport holders are classified as “Prior Approval Category” (PAC) and the diplomatic missions are not authorised to renew their passports unless such adverse remarks are cleared, they said.