Longer wait for passport seekers

Longer wait for passport seekers

Gulf countries demand mandatory police clearance certificate

The processing time for a passport is now 45 days, against 35 days earlier. The delay is attributed to the additional burden on the Regional Passport Office for the issue of police clearance certificates (PCC) for people headed to the Gulf countries. The PCC is a miscellaneous service offered by the passport offices, declaring that police verification has been conducted before the issue of passport and is used in very few cases.

But a few months ago, countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait made it mandatory for people applying for employment and resident visas to obtain a police clearance certificate. This has resulted in a huge number of applications at the Passport Office, forcing it to divert staff to handle the 200 applications it receives daily. This number is likely to increase.

An official at the Passport Office stated that for every application, information needed to be cross-checked with their databases and in cases of passports issued under tatkal, they would have to forward it to the jurisdictional police, if the process had not been done earlier.

The office is trying to clear the backlog by working extra hours, but it has not helped much. The official stated that all the passport offices in the country were reporting similar problems, with Hyderabad office receiving nearly 500 applications per day and the Lucknow office reporting a staggering 800 applications on a single day last week.

Staff members have already been diverted at the Bangalore Passport Office due to the ongoing preparations for the transition to the new system under the Passport Seva project. The additional burden of issuing PCC is stretching the passport office staff.

Passport Officer R Ravindra admitted that normal processing of passports had been delayed due to the PCC process. He said the number of passport applications which had seen a decrease last year, had increased again. “We expect 85,000 thousand applications between March and May. There will be some delay, but we are trying to clear the backlog,” he said.