Get machine-readable passports, Indians urged

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Indian government issues advisory, reminding expats of November 25, 2015, deadline.

Dubai — The Indian government has asked its citizens to apply for urgent re-issuance of their passports if they are not machine-readable, have validity of less than six months and have exhausted visa pages.

The public advisory issued by the Ministry of External Affairs was sent across to the media by the Indian Consulate in Dubai on Monday.

The latest advisory reminding handwritten passport holders to seek Machine Readable Passports (MRPs) comes against the backdrop of a looming deadline set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to phase out all non-MRPs.

In September, Khaleej Times had first reported the need for Indian expatriates, like all other nationalities holding manual passports, to switch to MRPs before the ICAO deadline set for November 24, 2015.

“From 25th November, 2015 onwards, foreign governments may deny visa or entry to any person travelling on a non-Machine Readable Passport,” the ministry’s advisory has said then and now.

S. Warrier, who holds a handwritten passport, said during his recent visit to Kerala, the immigration authorities at the Thiruvananthapuram airport advised him to seek a MRP as soon as possible to avoid getting into trouble.

“They said we never know if some countries may apply the rule from the beginning of 2015 itself. So, I have just applied for a new MRP,” he said.

The Government of India has been issuing Machine Readable Passports since 2001 and the missions in the UAE started issuing them in 2006. “The passports, however, issued before 2001 and particularly those issued during mid-1990s with a validity of 20 years will fall in the category of non-MRPs. All handwritten passports with pasted photographs are also considered non-MRPs,” the ministry stated.

“By the end of November 2014, it is estimated that there are approximately 2.86 lakh handwritten passports in circulation. Approximately six crore (60 million) Indians hold valid passports.

“Indian citizens residing in India and abroad and holding such passports with validity beyond 24th November, 2015 are advised to apply for re-issue of their passports well before the deadline in order to avoid any inconvenience in obtaining valid visa or international travel,” it added.

The ministry said Indian citizens travelling on passports which may expire in less than six months should renew their passports before any upcoming international travel.

“Many international travellers may not realise that having an unexpired passport is sometimes not enough to obtain visas or to enter certain foreign countries.

“It is especially important to check the passport needs of any minor who may be accompanying their parents as passports for minors have a shorter validity period (5 years) than passports for adults (10 years). The universal practice in vogue now is; “Once your passport crosses the nine-year mark, it is time to get new passport”.”

Since some countries do not accept passports which may have fewer than two pages remaining, Indian citizens have been asked to check their passport to ensure that they have enough visa pages.

“There is no provision of additional booklets/pages and you will be required to apply (for) re-issuance of passport following standard procedures. Frequent travellers may opt for jumbo passport containing 64 pages.”

All Indian passport issuing authorities have instituted a simple and fast-track procedure for renewal of passport, the ministry said. For more details related to passport services, Indian citizens living abroad should visit the website of respective Indian Mission/Post.

In the UAE, Indian expatriates may contact the centralised call centre of the BLS International, the outsourced agency that provides Indian passport and visa services, on 04-2555530 or the helpline of the Indian Workers’ Resource Centre 800INDIA (80046342).

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