Dubai: Obtaining a fresh passport and renewing it has become an excruciating affair for non-resident Indian citizens in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to them, slots are not available when they try to book appointments in advance to avail of these services.
Ironically, when they apply for the premium lounge facility which carries higher fees, slots are allotted. Complaints in this regard have witnessed a spurt recently.
The Indian government has assigned an agency named BLS International to provide passport-related services in the UAE. “People attempting advance booking for appointments at the agency receive the response that slots are unavailable. But, plenty of slots are available in the premium lounge, which has high fees. We suspect that the agency has reduced the number of ordinary slots to earn more income from the premium lounge,” said Advocate Fareed, chairman of the Global Pravasi Union, an association of expatriates.
“Such an arrangement is causing much hardship to Indian citizens having low income in the UAE. Already, the fee for passport services abroad is five times that in India. Most NRIs cannot afford the additional charges for premium services,” said Fareed.
The service charge alone at the premium lounge, which was opened in 2012, is UAE dirhams (AED) 225 (1 AED = Rs 22.66). Moreover, an applicant has to pay AED 105 to attest each document.
In India, the fee to apply for a fresh passport is Rs 3,000 and for renewal Rs 1,800. In contrast, in the UAE, the fee for a fresh passport is AED 615 and for renewal AED 415. When ordinary slots are not available at these rates, Indians in the UAE are compelled to book the premium service by paying an additional AED 225.
A labourer’s plight
Advocate Farid came to know about this issue when he visited the office of BLS International in Dubai to attest the transfer certificate (TC) of his children. There, he saw an elderly labourer from India standing helplessly. Farid spoke to the man and learnt that he had arrived at the agency to attest a power of attorney to transfer 10 cents of land and a hut in India to his brothers. The labourer had forfeited his work and payment for two days for the purpose, but the matter was not done. Farid was told that booking slots for attestation was not required earlier. However, it is needed under the latest rules. The labourer was not aware of this and had wasted two days at the BLS office.
The power of attorney was an urgent matter and as ordinary slots were unavailable, the labourer had no option but to book the premium slot. However, even though the man carried some extra money it did not come to AED 225, which was the additional charge for the premium longue.
Farid immediately communicated with the authorities at BLS to give a concession to the labourer, but they rejected the request outright.
“We will initiate strong measures to solve the issue of lack of ordinary slots to avail services,” the advocate told Manorama Online.
How to apply
The online form to apply for the passport is available here. The fee for a 36-page passport is AED 285 and a 60-page jumbo passport AED 380. The tatkal passport of 36-page is available at AED 855 and the jumbo at AED 950. In addition, AED 9 is charged as a service charge and AED 2 as a contribution to the Indian Community Welfare Fund.
A decision will be taken on the applications in two to 30 days. Tatkal services will be completed within two days.
Things to note
Photos on the applications should be of 51 x 51 mm size taken within the previous three months. The photo should show the face clearly from forehead to chin along with the ears. The eyes should be opened. Attachments should include the current original Indian passport and photocopies of all pages of the passport.
Call centre, Abu Dhabi: 04 387 5667, Dubai: 04 387 5777
E-mail: [email protected]