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

Here is some friendly advice from the Embassy of India in the UAE as residents take advantage of the summer holidays to go on vacation.

“Check the validity of your passport, the number of blank leaves left in your travel document and last[ly], don’t forget to check the expiry on your UAE residence visa,” said M Rajamurugan, Counsellor at Embassy of India in Abu Dhabi.

The official said the embassy has seen instances where Indian expats come requesting passport renewals after they were turned away at airports because their passports had expired or because there were not enough blank pages in their travel document.

“We directed them to BLS International Passport Services – UAE for the passport issuance. This situation can be avoided and a lot of time and money can be saved by just making due checks of your travel documents every now and then.”

Rajamurugan said in the case of an emergency family situation and based on certain humanitarian grounds, the Indian Embassy helps expats get their passports quickly, even on public holidays and weekends. “This is only in severe cases where there has been a death of a close family member and the passport holder did not realise his document had expired. In such a situation even if it is a public holiday or a weekend, we arrange for a new passport to be issued through [ BLS].”

The Counsellor advises Indian expats to call a 24x7 hotline number listed on the Indian Embassy website for any emergency.

Indian Embassy warns travellers to check the validity of their passport ahead of their travel Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

The counsellor also asks parents to keep a regular check on their minor children’s passports. “They are valid only for five years so ensure that they are renewed well in advance.”

So when is it the ideal time to renew your passport?

“It all depends on the places they want to visit and how frequently they travel. Ideally there should be enough space for the immigration stamps. So if you are just travelling to India and returning then a couple of pages would be ok. But if you are visiting a number of places then you would need more pages for the immigration stamps. So see according to your travel schedule. It is always advisable for a frequent traveler to take a jumbo passport with 60 page leaves,” he said.

In terms of passport renewal, the counsellor advised people to start the process at least six months before wanting to travel. “Again if you are travelling to India and returning to UAE, then even four months validity is fine. But if you are applying for an international visa – they generally ask for the passport to have a six months validity,” said Rajamurugan.

Another tip from Rajamurugan: “If your residence visa is about to expire and your passport as well, renew your passport first and then your visa so that both will be in your new passport.”

Neeraj Agarwal, acting consul-general and consul for the press, information, culture, also advised travellers to check their passport early. “I have been living in the Gulf for ten years and it is quite a norm for people to forget to renew their passports. Of course the frequency rises during this time when it is the summer vacation and more people travel.”