Indian expats at a BLS international centre in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: The number of centres providing Indian passport and visa services in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah will double from early next year, a top Indian diplomat told Gulf News on Monday.

The embassy will select two companies [instead of the existing one] that will open additional service centres in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, where a large number of passport and visa applications are handled on a daily basis, said Neeta Bhushan, Charge d’Affaires at the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

The number of services centres to be operated in these three emirates will be divided between two companies and customers can choose the one in accordance with their convenience, she said.

“We expect a healthy competition between two companies, which will improve the efficiency and quality of services,” Bhushan said.

The lone service centres in other emirates will continue except two in Kalba and Khorfakkan that will be closed due to low number of customers, she said. “There are only one or two customers in Kalba and Korfakkan on most of the days.”

A new centre in Musaffah in Abu Dhabi will cater to thousands of blue-collar workers living in the industrial area and Indians in the Western Region of the emirate.

As Gulf News reported on October 3, the embassy had extended the three-year term of BLS International Services Ltd, the outsourced agency currently handling the Indian passport and visa applications, until January 2017. The official said the embassy opened a tender on Monday to select the two companies and the last date for submission of proposals would be January 9, 2017. The details are available on The new companies are expected to start their operations in February, Bhushan said.

She said the embassy decided to increase the number of service providers, considering the large number of Indians in the UAE. An estimated 2.6 million Indians are living in the UAE.

The two Indian diplomatic missions in the UAE issue around 300,000 passports a year, Bhushan said. The Indian Consulate General in Dubai that caters to Dubai and five other northern emirates issue 240,000 passports and the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi 60,000 passports a year.

Both the missions issue 74,000 Indian visas a year, Bhushan said.

Asked about any changes in services charges, the official said the companies would be selected based on the lowest bids offered by them and it would be looked into at that stage only.

Currently, BLS International is charging Dh9 as service charge for passport related transactions, apart from optional courier charges to deliver the passport. The applicants also pay Dh6 towards Indian community welfare fund set up by the embassy to help Indians in distress.

A committee constituted by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and headed by Bhushan is in charge of the bidding process to select the companies. A senior official of the Ministry, the Consul General of India in Dubai and other officials from the embassy and the consulate are members of the committee, which will select the new service providers on consensus, she said.

Revamp in passport, visa services

Existing number of centres to double in Abu Dhabi (from 1 to 2), Dubai (from 2 to 4) and Sharjah (from 1 to 2).

Two companies to offer services instead of the existing one (BLS international).

Customers in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah can select the centre of their choice for service.

A new centre in Mussafah in Abu Dhabi will cater to thousands of blue-collar workers living in the industrial area.

Centres in Kalba and Khorfakkan will be closed due to low number of customers.

300,000 passports a year issued by Indian missions in the UAE.

240,000 passports a year issued by the Indian Consulate in Dubai.

60,000 passports a year issued by the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

74,000 visas a year issued by the Indians missions in the UAE.