Saturday, April 05, 2014

applying for a passport in India

Now the procedure for applying for Indian passport applications has been made online, and many Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs) have been opened, so the whole process is more transparent and less of a hassle. The website gives most of the required info, in a user-friendly manner. My own experience was as follows.

Applied online, filling up the form online over the course of a couple of days, and found at the last step that Hyderabad Begumpet office, where I wanted to go, was giving out appointments the very next day. Since I had to book Tatkal railway tickets to go to Hyderabad, chose to wait for a Thursday morning before making payment and booking an appointment, so that I could go to Hyd on Thu evening, reach there on Fri morning for a morning appointment.

The Begumpet PSK was near the American consulate, so there was a big rush of US Visa applicants also nearby! The passport office entrance was to the side, the security guard was allowing only those who had appointments within 15 minutes to come and stand in line, was asking the others to move away. One potential issue is that only the person who has the appointment is allowed inside (except for invalids etc) - so, in general, it would be a good idea to meet up with someone else and apply together, because when one is alone, waiting for the tokens to be displayed on the screens can be a chore. The queue was only around 10 minutes, then after a brief security check, we have to hand over initial documents like School Leaving Certificate photocopy for getting a token number and a temporary file.

As the passport portal shows, the process is in three counters, A, B, and C. Counter A for entry of details, documents scanning, checking spelling, finger print scanning, taking of picture etc. Counter B - another check of the documents. Counter C - final approval. for After getting the token, we proceeded to counter A almost immediately, with our token numbers being displayed on the video screen there. But after that, our wait for counter B was almost two hours! The waiting area is air-conditioned, but one has to be alert for the token numbers to be displayed on the screen. There's a coffee/snack bar, and washroom facilities in the waiting area, but once in, we can't go out. At Begumpet, the A and B sections have lots of counters - 20+, C section has comparatively fewer - 10 or so.

Counter B to Counter C waiting time was only 15 minutes or so, and the whole process was finished in around a couple of hours. A's father finished his passport renewal at Calicut in just an hour, so it depends on the centre and how busy it is on a given day. The initial counters are manned by TCS folks, professional and quick. Counter C is the Govt. of India official who gives final approval, checking the docs for a final time. Then we just have to collect a receipt at the exit - a short 2 minute queue for this - and then leave after another security check.

The police verification was the main cause of delay - had to call the policeman, a friend's acquaintance - several times, since he was busy with the elections coming up. Once he came and checked the documents, had to give him another set of photocopies and two photographs, a week later the passport portal status showed that the passport has been sent for printing. Another week later, the passport was in my hands. The postman also needs a photocopy of address proof before handing over the passport. The whole process took 5 weeks. 

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