x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Indian expatriates in UAE protest increase in passport renewal fees

Cost of renewing rises 90 per cent with less than one day’s notice.

Applicants at the BLS Indian Passport Application Centre in Dubai wait to process their passports. As of today, the new fee to renew an Indian passport is Dh285 - up 90 per cent.
Applicants at the BLS Indian Passport Application Centre in Dubai wait to process their passports. As of today, the new fee to renew an Indian passport is Dh285 - up 90 per cent.

DUBAI // Indian expatriates have criticised a government move to almost double their passport renewal fees with only a day’s warning.

The new fees were announced in India on Friday and in the UAE on Sunday – less than 24 hours before they came into effect.

As of today, the fee to renew an Indian passport is Dh285 – a 90 per cent increase from Dh150. The fee for tatkal, a three-day renewal service, is Dh155 more at Dh855.

A 60-page jumbo passport will cost an extra Dh95, more than double the old fee, while replacing a lost, stolen or damaged passport will cost Dh570 – about Dh65 more.

Mohammed Issa, a construction worker in Sharjah who earns Dh1,000 a month, said the charges would be too high for him to pay.

“Companies don’t increase salaries often so why should the government raise prices this way?” Mr Issa asked. “If they increase a little, it is reasonable. But to pay double is a lot for people like us.”

The last time Indian passport fees were raised was March 2002, the country’s ministry of external affairs says.

“Over the last 10 years costs relating to establishment, capital expenditure, procurement of equipment … have gone up considerably, which has necessitated increase in passport and related services fees,” said the ministry.

But expatriates are not convinced.

“This does not affect just one section of the people,” said Salim Panthodi, who lives in Abu Dhabi. “All citizens need it. It is a basic right.

“People are already reeling under inflation as costs are going up. They are adding to the burden. The government should find other ways to increase their source of income.”

The fees also apply to people living in India, where a passport renewal that once cost 500 Indian rupees (Dh35) will now cost 1,500.

Sreekumar K?P, a sales executive, said the rise was particularly steep for those with families who had to renew more than one passport.

“They have to rethink this and bring it down,” Mr Sreekumar said.

Joseph Bobby, vice president of Valley of Love, which advocates for blue-collar workers, said the change in fees might be a discomfort for many expatriates but, for a certain section of the non-resident Indian population, it was prohibitive.

“Think about people like workers at the garment factories in Ajman,” Mr Bobby said. “Their salaries are only about Dh450.

“But for them, renewing a passport is not just about spending Dh285 on the fee – they are also spending on transport to get to the embassy and taking time off work to go there.”

The Indian ambassador, M?K Lokesh, said consular staff had steeled themselves for complaints.

“Obviously people will not be happy,” said Mr Lokesh. “But it is a government of India decision and applicable to Indians everywhere. We’ll probably receive [letters of complaint]. Once we receive them, we will forward it to the concerned ministry.”

The Sharjah Indian Association has sent a letter to the prime minister and external minister.

“This is an exorbitant increase,” said Y?A Rahim, the president of the association. “It is not fair on people with ordinary jobs. An increase of 10 to 20 per cent is reasonable. Anything more than that is a burden.”

pkannan@thenational.ae