An Indian passport. For illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Indian missions in the UAE are cutting down passport processing time to eight working days, officials said on Sunday.

Issuance of Indian passports will now be done within five to eight working days maximum, Indian consul passports Sandeep Chowdhary told Gulf News.

In the last one month more than 35 staff members worked round the clock and on weekdays to process 36,000 pending passports to clear the backlog and achieve parity between application and processing, he said.

After the Indian government had announced phasing out of handwritten passports, there was a scramble for machine readable passports, causing a backlog. Indian expatriates had complained that new passports were taking up to two months.

“The Indian Consul-General Anurag Bhushan was very keen to streamline the passport processing systems and we at the consulate were struggling to clear pending applications. While passports that were originally issued in Dubai required a week of processing time, all other passports issued anywhere else, be it India or any other Indian mission [abroad], took a maximum of 60 working days although we always aimed at giving these passports within 45 days. So our staff of 25 people worked tirelessly, even on weekends, to close this gap and were successful. From now on all passports, no matter where they were issued can be renewed within eight working days, provided they are the normal applications with no special verifications required,” he explained.

Once an expatriate applies for a new passport at BLS, the official agency for handling passport applications, the applications, after a thorough check, are sent to the Indian mission. The passport staff then cross-references the information and documents based on the existing information it has and also looks for any accidental clerical errors in name or address that may have crept in. Once everything is in place, the government of India issues the new document. Every month the Indian Consulate issues 16,000 to 18,000 new passports.

If Indian expatriates in the UAE still face interminable delays they can write to Sandeep Chwodhary on passport.dubai@mea.gov.in



Persons of Indian origin urged to apply for changed status

Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) waiting to change their status to Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) are urged to complete the formalities before June 30 free of cost, according to an official at the Indian mission.

Following a government notification, all PIOs which have handwritten documents have to change their status to OCI before June 30. So far, of the 3,000 PIOs in UAE, around 1,200 successfully changed their status between March and May. Of the pending 1,700, every day the Indian Consulate is processing several applications and would like to remind all remaining PIOs to rush before the expiry of the deadline, said Rahul Srivastava, Counsel Visa and Consular services.

The UAE has a large number of PIOs due to cultural linkages. The spouses of women or men of Indian origin who were married to foreigners were entitled to the PIO status and so were the children of such parents. This status gave them a permanent visa in India where they enjoyed all other rights to life and property excluding the right to franchise or occupy a political office.

In order to encourage all PIOs to avail of this special free processing the Indian mission had launched several special camps and deployed 400 per cent additional staff to complete the process.

Now with 45 days remaining, the Consulate is requesting the remaining PIOs to complete the application and get their OCI documents.

Srivastava added: “Right now the process for existing PIOs until the expiry of the June 30 deadline is simple. All they need to do is log on to www.indiavisaonline.gov.in, fill the form and upload a photograph and signature. Once the upload is complete and the form is accepted they need to take a print out of the form and come here in person with their current passport and PIO document. Al they require is just two documents.”

Barring a service fee of Dh6 the entire exercise is free. After June 30, the cost of an OCI will be Dh1,000 and the individual will be required to furnish at least nine essential documents.

Srivastava added: “The turnaround time for a OCI application is 30 days and we want all PIOs to avail of this window of opportunity and get this done.”