Dubai: Indian expats in the UAE will receive passport and attestation services from the branches of a new, unified centre from 2024 as the Indian diplomatic missions have decided to revamp the outsourced consular services including visa services, Gulf News can reveal.
The Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi has invited bids from service providers who can offer quick, transparent services in prime locations with strict requirements to streamline services, reduce waiting times and ensure enhanced efficiency and accessibility.
The mission has published a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the outsourcing of Consular-Passport-Visa (CPV) services, attestation services, and services for the Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) at the Embassy and the Indian Consulate in Dubai.
Currently, two different service providers provide outsourced services for the missions. BLS International processes the passport and visa applications while IVS Global handles the document attestation services and some services are handled at the missions.
ICACs in prime locations
The new service provider will have to combine all the consular services under one facility named the Indian Consular Application Centre (ICAC) across all the emirates. Interestingly, for the first time, the outsourced service provider is allowed to offer Indian CPV services at applicants’ doorsteps as well.
The branches of ICAC will have to serve an estimated 3.5 million Indians living in the UAE and foreigners seeking Indian visa services through the Indian missions here.
1,600transactions processed by the Indian missions in the UAE per day
The RFP stated that the Indian missions in the UAE together “processed approximately 400,000 services/transactions per year during the three-year pre-Covid period from 2017 to 2019 (equivalent to 1,600 transactions/services per working day, (assuming 250 working days in a year) and has considerably increased since then.”
The most crucial aspects of the RFP involve the establishment of ICACs in prime locations across the country to facilitate accessibility for applicants, streamlining services, and reducing waiting times.
The RFP states that the locations shall be in well-connected areas and with ample parking facilities for applicants. The Embassy has proposed the following locations:
- Al Khalidiya,
- Al Reem,
- Al Ain, and
- Karama/Oud Metha,
- Al Quoz/Al Barsha,
- Deira, and
- Al Qusais.
- Abu Shagara,
- Rolla, and
Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah
In addition, there will be one centre each in one centre each in Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah.
According to the requirements set by the Embassy, the ICACs will operate six days a week, with at least 48 hours dedicated to both application submission and back-office processing, ensuring a responsive and efficient workflow.
A significant highlight is that the applicants will not be required to wait for more than four days for online appointments and applications would be processed in 20 minutes.
The appointment slot availability should be always available within four working days. Total turnaround time should not be more than 20 minutes from token generation to acceptance of application and payment at the counter. Delays in providing service will lead to the imposition of penalties.
“The appointment slot availability should be always available within four working days. Total turnaround time should not be more than 20 minutes from token generation to acceptance of application and payment at the counter. Delays in providing service will lead to the imposition of penalties,” the RFP stated, emphasising on swift service delivery.
Additionally, a real-time, five-stage online tracking system is mandated on the website of the service provider. This will offer applicants updates about their applications’ status, from submission to delivery.
Language accessibility has also been ensured, with the requirement for a website to be available in English, Arabic, and Indian languages including Hindi, Tamil, and Malayalam.
A dedicated customer care service to answer enquiries and to timely address complaints over the telephone, e-mail, and message is also mandatory.
No hidden charges
ICACs can charge a service fee for processing the applications which needs to be quoted in the bid. Fees for optional services have been stipulated in the RFP which has clarified that no hidden charges in the name of optional services would be allowed. Also, there shall be no revision in service fee during the tenure of the contract which is three years.
There are no significant changes in the fees for various optional services including form filling and photographs (Dh30 each). However, fees for some new optional services have been mentioned such as “computer with internet facility for 30 minutes for form filing at kiosk (Dh15), typing (Dh20) and translation (Dh20). Form filling and typing fees for OCIs stand at Dh50 each.
The service provider is allowed to offer Door-to-Door services for a fee of up to Dh380 while it can charge up to Dh300 for the premium lounge facility, the fee for which currently is Dh225.
On-time collection of all required documents and passports from the missions after the application has been processed and disposed of and timely handing over of document(s) back to applicants at the counter of the ICACs or by other secure and fast means such as courier have also been stipulated.
To ensure transparency about the service providers, the RFP states that the website of the service provider should have a separate menu, ‘About us’ which should have details of the outsourcing company such as the establishment of the company, vision document, names of the top executives with their profiles, details of the executives in charge of the present operations along with contact numbers, email address, etc. “It should also contain details of the holding company, if any.”
A “Service Dashboard” has to be created by the service provider (SP) to show the progress of all applications. This dashboard will show each application’s stage from submission to final delivery, along with fees paid. Only authorised officials from the missions will have access to this dashboard.
The service provider is also required to offer biometric services. Capturing ten-finger and facial biometric data of the applicants will be required for visa applicants. “In the event of roll out of chip-enabled e-passport services by the Ministry of External Affairs, the service provider will be responsible for the enrolment of ten-finger and facial biometric data of the applicants, as prescribed,” the RFP said.
The RFP has also emphasised data privacy and confidentiality to safeguard applicants’ sensitive information.
The deadline for bid submissions is on August 28 and the contract will be awarded on October 18. There will be a two-month window for the centres to be launched and operations are expected to start by January 1, 2024.
Community leaders have welcomed the move saying it will mark a significant step toward realising streamlined and efficient services for Indian expatriates in the UAE.
We appreciate the efforts of the Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan in ensuring a solution for the issues faced by the Indian community members here.
Advocate YA Rahim, president of the Indian Association Sharjah, said: “The revamped services will greatly benefit the Indian expatriate community in the UAE. Applicants can expect streamlined processes, minimising hassle and wait times.
"We appreciate the efforts of the Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan in ensuring a solution for the issues faced by the Indian community members here. We thank him for listening to the grievances of the community members when he held meetings with representatives of the Indian association during his visit to the UAE. This RFP is the result of those meetings as well,” he said.
Jitendra Vaidya, president of the Indian People’s Forum said: “It is a great initiative of the Indian government, especially the Ministry of External Affairs, to improve the passport and attestation services in the UAE. It will be a big solace, especially for the blue-collar workers who were finding it difficult to get appointments and get their applications processed in time.
It will be a big solace, especially for the blue-collar workers who were finding it difficult to get appointments and get their applications processed in time.
"There have been some issues and the new tender covers all the aspects which will take care of all the concerns of the Indian expats. We appreciate the embassy and consulate for taking extra efforts to meticulously study the issues and come up with solutions by stipulating tender parameters unique to the situations here.”