Dubai: Indian expatriates in Dubai can now walk in to apply for emergency passport renewal under the 'Tatkal' service, Sunjay Sudhir, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE told Gulf News.
The move follows special walk-in camps held by the Indian Consulate in Dubai to meet the huge rush for passport renewals. Around 2,000 passport applications were processed during the special camps held on two Sundays last month.
In an interview with Gulf News after a community interaction session in Dubai earlier this week, the ambassador said the decision to allow walk-in service for all 'Tatkal' applications was made after community members raised their concerns about delays in securing appointments with BLS International, the outsourced service provider for passport applications.
“Some members raised the issue about [not getting appointments for] passports. They were very appreciative of the fact that the consulate has already conducted walk-in camps on [two] Sundays to make sure that the backlog is not there for passports. So, for the moment, it has been made walk-in [not based on appointments] for all 'Tatkal' services.”
The ambassador said the walk-in service for 'Tatkal' applications would be available on all days of operation at BLS. It will begin at the centres in Dubai and will also be rolled out in other emirates.
'Tatkal' applications for emergency passport renewals will be processed and delivered in a day, depending upon the option chosen for delivery— by hand or via courier. Only eligible applications will be allowed under 'Tatkal' category in the absence of police verification done before issuing the passport.
Urgent travel requirements, especially due to medical emergencies or death in the family, will be considered. There is no appointment required for processing passport applications of senior citizens and newborns even under regular circumstances.
Sudhir said the consulate has done its best to streamline the processes and to avoid the backlog. He said the waiting period for appointments for passport services has now come down to one week. “But then this is the minimal waiting period,” the ambassador said.
The Indian Consulate in Dubai issues one of the highest numbers of passports outside India with around 200,000 passports issued per year. However, due to high demand, currently, the mission is processing around 1,000 passports per day.
The mission has attributed the huge rush to a sudden spike in the number of Indian expatriates wanting to travel after the COVID-19 travel restrictions were eased. Also, the number of applications that could be accepted when social distancing rules were in place was limited.
The Sunday walk-in camps were held to cater to passport renewal requests to get visa renewed, to apply for new job, for NRI certificates for educational purposes, to get Police Clearance Certificates etc.
The ambassador said community members also raised concerns about the high air fares to and from India. “But then you know since this is more of a market-driven pricing mechanism, neither the government of India nor the consulate or embassy has anything to do with this. But what we have done and what I have shared with our community members is that our effort has been to have as many flights as possible so that the fares come down. Even in air bubbles, we were operating at very high levels — we were operating at 65 per cent of pre-COVID number of flights. And now we have come back to pre-COVID levels.”
Progress on IIT-UAE
The envoy further said: “A decision had been taken at the level of [Indian] Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to have an IIT in the UAE. Progress has been made in that regard. Very soon, we would start working on that in a very concrete way by having delegations from India coming and talking to people here.”
Sudhir said that one of the objectives of the project is to create more jobs. Similarly, he said, more job opportunities await Indians back home and in the UAE in view of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the UAE and India. “If last year our trade was about $72 billion (Dh264.81 billion), it is expected to rise to $100 billion in the next five years. I believe it should happen much earlier than that and more jobs would be created. Also, increasing trade should also give rise to increase in investments in both the countries, which will give rise to jobs.”
Extradition and prisoner transfer
Sudhir said some community members had also highlighted the delay in certain extradition cases from UAE to India. He said the Indian missions would make best efforts to address these issues. He also clarified that the India-UAE agreement on transfer of sentenced prisoners was not abandoned. “It’s not that the project never took off. There is some backlog and concerns, which we are trying to clear through government-to-government and we are progressing well.”
He appreciated the community volunteers, heads of various Indian community groups and associations for contributing to the efforts of the Indian government to cater to the welfare of expat community members.
For a jumbo passport with 60 pages, adults have to pay Dh380.
To get the passport on the same day under the 'Tatkal' service, Dh570 is charged extra for both minors and adults.
A fee of Dh8.05 is charged for every application for contributing to the Indian Community Welfare Fund.