Monday, July 11, 2016

India Passport Queries

I write this blog post with a purpose. To give it some kind of context, let me give you a little bit of a back story.

I have had a variety of experiences with the PSK, and passport offices in general.

I felt that the experiences I have had, can help those in distress regarding things related to their India passports.

I started responding to questions on Quora, and lo-and-behold, I started getting queries on weird channels such as: Facebook, Twitter, Google+. So I decided, well, let me just put everything on a blog, and let people find it.

So here goes.

The Ministry of External affairs issues passports to India citizens on behalf of the Government of India. The passports are proof of your residence in the country, and prove that you are indeed, a citizen of the country.

Before giving you the passport, the Government likes to run certain checks about your identity. Now these checks are perfectly valid and well within the realms of reason. As having a passport guarantees you protection from the government when on foreign soil etc. etc. etc.

These checks are:
1. You are indeed a citizen of the country. (Proof of identity)
2. You stay in the place where you say you stay. (Proof of address)
3. You have studied (if at all) (ECR Check)
4. You are of a certain age (Proof of age)

Now after years of tedious queues at the Passport offices, the RPO finally outsourced its processing of applications to Tata Consulting Services, the IT Services arm of the Tata group. They have done quite well in mapping out detailed processes for applications for passports, and PCCs. There are of course a number of places where they can do better, but since it is a process that requires scale, and support from all stakeholders (read the general junta), it will take time. But I am optimistic.

Some of the common queries I get about the Indian passport are as follows:
1. How long after verification will I get my passport?
2. Can a family member be a reference in the passport application?
3. I recently moved into a new place, will verification happen at all places I have stayed at?
4. Application is under review after police verification what does it mean?
5. SCN issued after verification, what should I do?

I'll try to answer all the above mentioned questions. If you need answers to more specific questions, please comment below, and I will try my best to answer them.

1. How long after verification will I get my passport?

Ans: There is no fixed timeline to you getting your passport. Passport offices do not have a service level agreement to dispatch your passport for printing. This is how it works.

Once your police verification is complete, the police sends a detailed report to the RPO. If the report is clear, your application is sent for printing, and then once printed, it is dispatched via speedpost.

Post printing, you will usually get your passport within 10-15 working days, depending on where you stay.

Some police stations are connected via the internet, centrally. The application after processing at the PSK goes to the police thana. If the thana is not connected via the internet, it goes to the regional office as a file. This file has your application copy. This includes, your present address, your date of birth and other details.

The police thana gets the file from the regional office and the inspector gives you a call/ visits your house personally.

When you meet the inspector, he/she verifies your address, and your place of birth (if it is the same place), if not, there is another verification that happens at your place of birth.

Once the report is clear, it goes back to the regional police office, and from there back to the RPO.

If the police stations are connected online, all transactions happen online. Else, a hard copy is circulated, and the RPO updates your application status based on the police report.

Does the activity involve giving/ taking bribes? Absolutely not. If a cop is asking you for bribes, then you need to ask for what purpose the bribe is being asked for. Typically the RPO allocates a portion of the passport fee for precisely this purpose.

The entire process takes time that varies between 1 day to over 90 days in some cases.

Let me give you an example:

A was born in Hooghly, West Bengal, and is now living in Mysore, Karnataka for the past 2 months. Before Mysore, A was living in Hyderabad for 3 months, and before that in New Delhi for 12 months.

He has filed his passport application in Bengaluru. The Bangalore PSK will trigger a verification request for place of residence at Mysore, Hyderabad, and in New Delhi. The police stations at these places is connected via internet, so the police should not take more than 7 days to check their data bases for criminal records against A, check if A has resided in the addresses mentioned and update the status.

A proof of Birth verification request goes to the Hooghly police station. This station is not connected via internet, so a hard copy is dispatched from Bengaluru, to the regional center. This regional center passes it on the local thana that checks with the mentioned municipality/ hospital verifying if A was actually born there.

Once the verification is complete, the thana sends the report to the regional office, who then sends a hard copy back to Bengaluru RPO, who updates the status manually.

This process might take anything between 7 days to 90 days to complete.

If all reports check out, then the passport is sent for printing.

Once printed the passport is dispatched to A in Mysore from the Bengaluru RPO via speed post, and A gets it in 5 working days.

2. Can a family member be a reference in the passport application?
NO. An immediate family member cannot be reference. It has to be someone else who knows you in some capacity and can verify that you stay at the given location. This is done as an additional check just to verify if the address and the duration of stay is legitimate, and if the person is real.

3. Recently moved to a new place, will verification happen at previous address?

YES. If you have moved to a new place, and have not stayed there for more than 6 months, the verification process will happen at the previous address as well. You need not be present there, the police will check their data base for criminal records.

What if you are staying at a hostel, and have given permanent address at your home? Well, then verification will happen at both places.

4. Application under review, what should I do?

This typically means, that the reports are in, and the RPO is checking the reports submitted post verification. If all is well, your passport will be sent for printing, else, you shall get a Police Verification not Clear message.

In such a case, when the not-clear report is submitted, you will have to visit the RPO between 10AM and 1PM in person with all your documents submitted. The APO/ RPO will meet you in person and decide what to do with your case. Typically this gets sent for a re-verification at the place where the report is not clear, with the fresh set of documents.

The cycle of verification begins again, but only in the place where the report is not clear.

5. SCN issued, what should I do?

If you get a show-cause notice from the RPO around your passport application, do not panic. Check what the document is saying. If it says that your residence address was not right, it could be possible that you were not present when verification happened, or a bunch of other reasons.

Visit the RPO, where you will be made to write an application in response to the SCN, and re-submit the documents. The APO/ RPO will take a call on whether re-verification will be required or not.

This is a standard process, and there is no need to worry about this.

Generally, the RPO office is a friendly place, but you need to be armed with the correct information, and supporting documents. Make sure the application you write is scanned at the RPO, and after getting an acknowledgement from the APO/ RPO, it gets scanned again in the system.

This way they have a record that you have visited the RPO with clarifications on the SCN.

All the best! Hope this helps.