x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Indian scheme to cut passport wait times

Passport and visa applications for India will be processed through 12 new centres rather than at the embassy and consulate general, starting this weekend, in an attempt to ease severe delays in the service.

DUBAI // Passport and visa applications for India will be processed through 12 new centres rather than at the embassy and consulate general, starting this weekend, in an attempt to ease severe delays in the service. Almost 200,000 passport enquiries and 63,000 visa applications are handled by the embassy and consulate general annually, putting them among the busiest Indian missions in the world. It is hoped the new centres, located throughout the country, will ease waiting times following a dramatic increase in applications in recent years.

Up to this week, the consulate general in Dubai was receiving 3,000 visitors every day. The large Indian community in Dubai often leads to long queues at the office. At the launch of the first centre in Deira yesterday, the consul general of India, Venu Rajamony, said: "This is a unique initiative tried for the first time by an Indian mission. We are confident that this will result in vastly improved services."

All 12 centres will be fully operational by Sunday. The new facilities will be operated in association with Empost and will remain open daily from 7am to 10pm, including weekends. These services will extend well beyond the working hours of the embassy and consulate general. A dedicated website and call centre have also been set up to check the status of applications and provide detailed information about the centres. The website address is www.ipavsc.com, while the number for the call centre is (600) 522-229.

The consul general said yesterday that the outsourced centres would be managed by employees of Empost, who have been trained to complete the preliminary paperwork and other formalities related to the services and forward the application to the embassy or consulate. Questioned about the security implications of passports being handled by outsiders, Mr Rajamony said: "All the work is still being done at the consulate. It is only the collection of applications and the return of the respective visa or passport that has been outsourced."

Officials said trained staff, who speak various Indian languages, would guide applicants in completing forms. Sultan al Midfa, chief executive of Empost, said: "All of us who were involved in making this initiative a reality took great care to ensure that the facilities and services offered at these offices are of the highest standards with the main aim of providing a hassle-free experience to applicants."

Empost is to charge a fee of Dh12 (US$3.25) for each passport while Dh50 would be charged for visa services, apart from the normal passport or visa application fees. pmenon@thenational.ae