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 / Abu Dhabi: Teething problems have hit the newly outsourced Indian passport and visa service centres, expected to cater to around 300,000 applicants in a year, Gulf News has learnt.

Many residents who had to wait for hours complained about the poor quality of service, such as delays and ignorance of the staff. When contacted, the two Indian diplomatic missions said that the delays were mainly due to technical glitches and that the issue was being sorted out.

On March 16, the Indian diplomatic missions announced that the management of the Indian Passport and Visa Service Centres, which has been under Empost since 2009, would go to a new agency BLS International.

BLS started operations on April 6. They handle the collection and dispatch services of Indian passport and visa applications and are in charge of answering all queries related to their service through their number 04-3594000.

Standard

"The services rendered by BLS International for the renewal of passports and other services is not up to the standards," Hariette D'Cunha, a resident who went to the BLS centre in Abu Dhabi two days ago for passport renewal, said.

Empost had been providing good services without any hassles, she said. "They seem to be inexperienced and unable to manage the services."

D'Cunha said that she reached the centre at 6pm on Tuesday only to be turned away since there were already too many people waiting. The next day her family returned and had to wait from 2pm until 9.30pm, she said.

M.K. Lokesh, the Indian Ambassador, told Gulf News that the Embassy was working with BLS International to sort out the problems.

"About 90 per cent of the problems related to the services have already been sorted out," he said. The ambassador said the visa issuance has been going smoothly. "There are some teething problems related to the passport services but we are making all efforts to sort them out soon," Lokesh said.

"There were about a hundred people standing outside the centre since morning when I visited the centre. ... the staff at the centre was clueless," said Mahmoud, a resident who had gone to the Bur Dubai centre.

Data upload: Official explains glitch

An Indian embassy official said that the glitch was related to difficulties in uploading some data fields into the system. "It will also take some time for the staff to become well-versed in dealing with the rush," the official said. Despite repeated attempts, BLS officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Compared to Empost, which was the previous service provider, BLS is offering the services at a 25 per cent reduced rate. In addition to the passport fee, the service charge for passports have been reduced to Dh9 from Dh12 and for the visa to Dh37.50 from Dh50.