Obtaining a fresh passport or renewing an existing one has become a frustrating ordeal for non-resident Indian citizens residing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Many complain of unavailability when trying to book advance appointments for these essential services.
In a surprising twist, those willing to pay extra for the premium lounge experience seem to have no trouble securing slots, raising concerns among the Indian expatriate community in the UAE.
The BLS International Factor
The Indian government has entrusted BLS International with the responsibility of providing passport-related services in the UAE. However, numerous individuals seeking advance appointments have encountered disappointing responses, citing slot unavailability.
Conversely, plenty of slots appear accessible in the premium lounge, which comes at a higher cost. Advocate Fareed, Chairman of the Global Pravasi Union—an association of expatriates—raises suspicions that this situation arises from a deliberate reduction in the number of ordinary slots to increase revenue from the premium lounge.
Impact on Low-Income Indian Citizens
The imbalance in slot availability has a significant impact on Indian citizens with limited financial resources in the UAE. Passport service fees abroad are already five times higher than those in India.
Most non-resident Indians (NRIs) cannot afford the additional charges associated with premium services, further exacerbating their challenges.
Premium Lounge Costs
The premium lounge, established in 2012, charges a service fee of UAE dirhams (AED) 225, with an additional AED 105 for document attestation. In stark contrast, obtaining a fresh passport in India costs Rs 3,000, while renewal costs Rs 1,800.
In the UAE, the fees stand at AED 615 for a fresh passport and AED 415 for renewal. With ordinary slots often unavailable at these standard rates, NRIs in the UAE find themselves compelled to opt for the premium service, incurring an extra AED 225 expense.
How to Apply for Passport Services
For those seeking passport services, the online application form can be accessed [here](insert link). A 36-page passport costs AED 285, while a 60-page jumbo passport is priced at AED 380.
Tatkal services for a 36-page passport are available at AED 855 and AED 950 for the jumbo version. A service charge of AED 9 and a contribution of AED 2 to the Indian Community Welfare Fund apply.
Applications are typically processed within two to 30 days, with Tatkal services guaranteeing a two-day turnaround.
When applying, remember that photo dimensions should be 51 x 51 mm, taken within the past three months, clearly displaying the face from forehead to chin, including the ears and open eyes. Attach the current original Indian passport and photocopies of all its pages.
In conclusion, the challenges faced by non-resident Indian citizens in the UAE while obtaining passports have raised concerns about fairness and accessibility, particularly for those with limited financial means. Advocate Fareed and the Global Pravasi Union remain committed to addressing this issue to ensure equal access to essential passport services.