People wait for their turn at the counter to apply for visas at the newly opened India passport and visa application outsourcing service conducted by BLS International. Image Credit: Oliver Clarke/Gulf News

Dubai: Despite the claims made by the Indian Consulate of passport issuance within seven working days, many Indian expatriates have complained of inordinate delays of 40-60 days in getting their passports renewed.

As per international regulations, handwritten passports are not acceptable and those applying for renewal or additional books or addition of a name have to go in for a new printed passport.

The handwritten passports will not be acceptable after November and that would partially explain longer queues at BLS, the official agency partnering with the Indian Embassy and Indian Consulate to process passsports and visas.

Kishore P., from Abu Dhabi, who hails from Thane district near Mumbai, faced a harrowing time when he applied for a new book for his passport which was valid until 2016. He told Gulf News: “I was really annoyed that I received my passport 60 days after submitting my application.”

Another expatriate from Sharjah, who did not want to disclose his name, had a very unpleasant experience in getting the passport of his newborn. “My wife’s name was not added in my passport as spouse, since our marriage was a year old and our passports were pre-dated. I was told to enter our names as parents in my child’s passport we would first have to add each other’s name in the spouse section for which we were required to apply for new passports. Only then could my daughter’s passport be ready. While I understand this, what really miffed me was the fact that it took 40 days to get all this done. I had to cancel my travel plans because of the delay.”

In case of individuals from the state of Kashmir, the police verification takes longer than a month sometimes and passports from that state take notoriously longer than 50 days to be issued.

Abid Hussain, from Sharjah, was livid that although he has been a UAE resident since 2007, his passport renewal took over 60 days. “I think there is plain discrimination with Indians who hail from Kashmir.I do not understand why the police verification needs such a long time in case of renewal of an existing passport. Despite tall claims made by the passport officials I was really upset when after 40 days I had no clue about when I would get my passport. On the 58th day of my application, my mother informed me from Srinagar of the visit of a policeman and I got my passport after 60 days after lodging official complaints. I had to travel on important business to Oman but could not do so for two months,” he complained.

The systems in BLS are pretty streamlined. Upon a visit to its Khaleej Centre branch in Bur Dubai, it was evident that the place worked seamlessly with token systems and diligent queues.

S. Santhanam, who had been sent back to get some additional documents, said that he had come in at 10am and had been unsuccessful in filling up the necessary documents.

A BLS official explained: “Our sytems are clear. People can apply for their passports online (www.blsindiavisa-uae.com), download the form, fill it up before coming here. The website has FAQs that answer every kind of question an applicant might have so there is no room for ambiguity. There is one queue to check that all necessary details have been filled. Many people commit glaring errors or leave out important facts and have to be sent back. Otherwise if one comes at 10am, one is likely to finish submitting the application within two hours and in normal circumstances have the passport delivered to the residence via courier in seven working days.”

However, Hassan Shareef, who had come to apply for renewal of his passport, begged to differ. “About five years ago I was pleasantly surprised when I applied for my daughter’s application at the then BLS branch near the Al Karama post office. However, now I had to wait from 3pm to 7pm just to submit my application even though I had verified the accuracy of my form well before 3pm. Expecting working people to waste half a day in queues is far from efficient and certainly not acceptable to anyone,” he said angrily.

Rizwan Kazi, another resident who had to wait for four hours at the Deira branch of BLS some weeks ago to get new passports for his children, was however impressed at the speed with which the documents were delivered to him. “Everything seems to be fine except for the long hours of waiting. Only two counters were open and a totalof three members of staff were attending to the long queues. However, the actual passport processing took four days and I had the documents in hand on the fifth day.”

Commenting on the issue a spokesperson from the Indian Consulate told Gulf News: “The Indian Consulate issues anything between 800-1,000 passports in a day and you can imagine the number we issue in a month. We work round the clock receiving applications, sending requests for verifications and issuing the new documents. You can imagine how difficult it is with a limited number of people to cater to the needs of nearly 1.8 million Indian expatriates in Dubai and the northern emirates. It normally takes seven working days, however, in case of exceptions where the police verification takes long or any other technical snags, there might be delays. For anyone in need of an urgent passport there is the emergency or special application called Tatkal where we issue passports within three days in case of an emergency such as a death in the family where an individual can request for priority in issuing his documents citing valid evidence. In case of any emergency, an Indian expatriate can call the helpline 050 7347676 and for workers there is a special toll-free help line 800 4632 for advice on any issue including issuing emergency travel documents after due diligence.”