Getting my Passport reissued

It was time to renew my passport and I was feeling scared. I have read many articles in the paper about how people aren’t getting appointments at the Passport Seva Kendra (PSKs) and that those who got, many a times had to come back due to some document issue or the other. Here’s sharing my experience so far

To start with I decided to first understand the process of how to apply for renewal of passport. So I visited the passport website and noticed that they recommend e-filing option. The details of this process are here and I just went about following this. The first step was to download and fill the e-Form, which is a PDF file, so you would need Adobe on your machine for this purpose. After filling the form and validating and generating the XML, the next step was to register online and upload the form, which is done here. Till Step 5 was easy and now came the dreaded scheduling of appointment and yes, I faced the issue of getting the appointment. For Pune the appointment slot opens at 12 noon and typically gets filled up in just a couple of min. While trying to schedule the appointment I had issues like
"All slots are booked, try later". I kept seeing this message
My portal password expired and interestingly the site takes you via “forgot your password” option rather than allowing you just reset the password using the earlier one.
I kept on trying for getting an appointment but could not and eventually my application itself expired. I had to upload the application again and then try again. Fortunately this time, one of my colleagues enlightened me on the basic issue: When trying to apply for the appointment never do from behind a proxy. Proxy and passport site don’t go hand in hand. While I can give more details on the exact issue, but that’s not the point right now. So if you are trying to apply for the appointment from behind a proxy like office network, then you can forget getting the appointment.
I finally used my smart phone for the net access via its 3G network and lo! I got through. The process of booking online appointment has changed a bit. After selecting your application and clicking on the “Schedule Appointment” link as shown in the figure below





You are taken first to the payment interface. Based on the kind of application, you make the payment and then are automatically given a date and a time. You no longer pick a date or a time. Also when making the payment, note that the options allowed are either SBI or credit card. If you hope to use another bank’s account, then that isn’t the option, at least for now. Online payment is mandatory and is valid for a year. The payment acknowledgement is generated. You need to print this, which also has your appointment date and time, and take it along with you when you visit the passport office.
Pune’s passport office is in Mundhwa, which is ahead of Koregaon Park. For me, this is the opposite end of the city. My appointment time was for 12.45 and they had mentioned that I should reach at least 15 min ahead of time. I was there half an hour ahead of time and the security person at the gate said that they will let us in at 12.30 (15 min ahead of time as mentioned in the appointment letter). Given a choice while taking appointment earlier in the day is a good idea as the backlog keeps increasing during the day and many people work on IST and believe that they can come in at any time. That is however true for walk-in (which is for minors below 15 years or senior citizens). So if you are late, the security person still lets you in.  But now the date and time is auto-assigned so you really can’t do much about it. However, note that since walk-in is allowed from 9 to 11 am, the crowd would be higher in the morning half as well.
We were let inside the gate (of the huge building, where PSK has taken part of a floor) promptly at 12.30 pm and on reaching the office entrance we were again greeted by a queue. However in a few moments the security called from one side for those who had an appointment to show him the letter and go in. The queue that we had wrongly stood in was for general enquiry.
As you enter the main hall, there are counters in front. These counters are for – enquiry, walk-in, fresh application with appointment, re-issue with appointment, minor and senior citizens, walk-ins and finally for Tatkal. See a queue and people just dash for it, without checking what the counter board says. I went and stood in the re-issue with appointment line and eventually after few min people realized their mistakes and re-aligned.
However the security guy walked up to the queues and asked people to spread out. He said that anyone can stand in any queue. How interesting? They why put up the boards? Am not sure if this how it works entire day or from afternoon, when walk-ins are stopped, they probably allow people to use any queue. This first queue is to validate your appointment, passport application form, original passport, and relevant photocopies. Note that the person takes only 1 photocopy for each relevant document and puts in a file, so you can avoid wasting paper and take only 1 copy with you. In case you have missed taking any photocopy, don’t worry, there’s a copier right on the premise. If everything is in order, the person files your photocopies for you and gives you a token number and returns the originals. This token number is what gets you entry to the second stage literally as you need to scan this and walk past a turn style. There are three kinds of token numbers. Those staring with N for normal fresh/reissue, W for walk-in and T for tatkal.
Overall the PSK is nicely built with appropriate care taken for people’s convenience. Once you are past the first counter, there is ample space to sit, there’s a snack center, provision of water and rest rooms. Appropriate monitors guide you as you move from counter to counter (A to B to C) on the basis of your token number. In fact the place is so well labeled that you can just get around without having to ask anyone anything. But that’s not how things work with us. If we see a person or an enquiry counter, we have to go and enquire something. And even if the token system clearly displays next token and where to go, there will always be people whose name would have to be called multiple times before they react (and these aren’t disabled people in anyway). During my visit, there was man, who seemed around his 50s who had come with a novel and he happily kept on reading it while his name got called many times.
After getting the token, there are 3 stages you need to get past. However after clearing all 3, I wonder if these were really required. Surely more efficiency can be brought into the system by avoiding duplicate work. You will understand once you know what each counter does.
So in stage two, we start by waiting in a hall. LCD monitors are mounted on the wall in the front and keep displaying the token number and which counter they need to go to. There are 36 A counters, which is the processing section. Here they collect the documents, scan and upload them, take your photograph and finger prints and store them. The good part of having submitted the online application is that mostly the data is correct. They show you that, but am not sure if they really allowing editing it. So if you made a mistake when uploading the form, am not sure what will happen. A letter to cancel the earlier passport and a receipt for fees paid is issued. I guess you pay in cash here in case it is a walk-in.
After A, we move to counter B, which are 10 in number and are the verification counters. Here all the documents required are validated and re-matched with the photocopies already put in the file (at the first entry counter). All photocopies need to be self-attested. In some way this is the third time when the documents are being scrutinized.
As luck would have it, by the time I reached this, it was 1.30 pm and entire the staff disappeared for lunch. They came back at 2.00 pm and the processing started again. Since there are many counters for each stage fortunately the queues move fast. The challenge for counter B and C however is that there are 4 monitors in this area and all display data for both B and C and it becomes a bit difficult to read that multi-column display to keep track of your token number. To add to the confusion, there was at least one person behind a B counter who would call out the name of the person before updating the monitor with the token number. So while everyone was focusing on the monitor to know when they will be called, we suddenly heard names being called out and took a min to react to it. Am not sure why he was doing this?
After 2 pm I moved fairly quickly from B and then again a wait for C, which is the granting section. There are 9 C counters but not all were operational and no, it wasn’t that the staff was absent, but some counters didn’t had the necessary hardware yet. Hope they will become operational soon. The person at C seemed to do the exact same things that the person at counter B had just done. However in addition this person stamped “Cancelled” on the earlier passport if the application was approved. Why this could not be done at B itself is anyone’s guess. 
Finally, if all is successful, you go to the checkout window of sorts where they print an acknowledgement letter which is a summary of final status. It has things like file number, application status (granted here means you are good to go), police verification (which can be pre, post or no). Mine says pre-verification, which means that police verification needs to happen before they will issue the new passport. You submit your token number paper here, which happens to be a feedback form as well (backside), so fill it up ahead of time to save time now.
Collect the letter and show it to the security person at the exit gate and he/she then opens the gate. So if you get in the PSK, you cannot just get out. Visit back to the portal to track the status of passport processing, like mine was reading "sent for police verification" by the end of the day.  
Overall, one doesn’t takes more than 30 min for work at counters A, B and C. The initial queue to get the token number also clears up pretty fast. So all in all, ideally one should be able to get in and out within an hour. But for me due to the lunch break, I wasted additional 30 min and then the lady at counter C who was busy on her phone. So eventually I managed to get the entire work done in 2 hours. I was out of the PSK by 2.45 pm.
Following are some improvements that I think can make PSKs even better and yes, I will submit these via their portal as well  (is anyone listening)
1.      Ask for only 1 photocopy if that is what is required. Why ask for 2 copies? 
2.      Photocopies and originals are checked at all 4 counters. Why? It seems to me that counters B and C can be easily merged.
3.      Counter B i.e. verification of documents should be before A i.e. the processing and uploading. So in case something is wrong or any documents are missing, why should the person’s photo, fingerprints, document upload etc. should happen?
4.     Since there are so many counters, why should the entire staff go for lunch at the same time? If they can go in two shifts, then half of them could still be servicing the people and more people can be cleared in a day
5.     For counters B and C, based on their location, the monitors should also be split. Two monitors should show only B token data and the other two should only show C data. Mixing all, makes it difficult to track your own token number.
6.     It may be a good idea to split the monitors based on N/W/T tokens as well.
7.     While I accept that the staff are also humans, but there should be some basic rules. One of the lady at a counter got a phone call and she talked on it for about 10 min and the person waiting for her ended up waiting and queue built up.
While I have suggested these improvements, I must say that the staff is mostly all courteous and talk and answer pleasantly. The setup is also good, unlike most other government offices and you can get your work done in fairly good moodJ.

[Updated: 4 Oct 2013]
Typically the passport gets issued in 40 days of applying for it (unless you go in for tatkal). Hence from the date of application, the file should reach the police station, that you filled in the application, within 2-3 weeks. The status is also update on the portal. Surprisingly in my case, the file got delayed and even after end of Sept, i.e. 2 months, the file had still not reached the police station. Since the police station was close to my office, I visited it almost every other day and in the end the passport officer became very friendly and sympathetic to my case. Eventually he only helped trace the file, which seemed to have been sent to some wrong police station (something that isn't uncommon). Eventually my file landed at the police station on 1 Oct and i submitted all the documents on 3rd. Now another wait for the physical passport to arrive.

During the waiting for the file to reach police station, I asked the officer, since the entire system is online, why do they still deal with physical files. Why not access the same system online and process the applications much faster. He said that this has been implemented from 1st of September 2013, but they are unable to do much about it due to lack of computers at police stations. Till the physical files will continue.

[Updated: 25 Oct 2013]
Got an SMS stating that the new passport has been dispatched via speed post

[Updated: 26 Oct 2013]
Finally... got the new passport. Took me roughly 3 months. The delay happened in between at the time of police verification.

BTW, you may want to see this.

Comments

  1. Nice post Atul.
    My experiences were similar - though I got the passport within 1 month for Normal passport re-issue process.
    To my good fortune, the police verification came to the local PS in time and the person in charge verified my documents and uploaded it to the system immediately.
    This is in the city of Bangalore. The time from police verification to getting the passport was 1.5 week.
    Some observations to your observations:
    1. Note that A and B counters are of contractors hired to verify documents - thus saving the time and hassle of counter C personnel who are typically Govt. Officials. I think it is a good thing given the type and (lack of documentation) many people bring to the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK). Also, A and B jobs are mundane and boring and I would want fresh people there every few months - which is only possible with contractors.
    2. The reason above explains why only Counter C person can cancel your passport after verifying that a new one will be issued. (S)he is the only qualified person there to do that job. Note that Counter A person is also helping you with the photo and signature - so is in the mode of information capture (as opposed to verification which is tasked to Counter B)
    3. I realised the value of the 2 copies for all documents rule when the police person arrived for verification - he needs the 2nd copy you made! :D

    One additional point I would like to make is that if you have got married since your last passport was issued, make sure you carry your marraige certificate. It does not mention the need for it on the website, but when you reach the counter, they will ask you for it.

    Overall, your experience is fairly typical and a good guide to those who plan to get their passport renewed. My only advice would be to give sufficient time and not try to do anything last minute.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Atul,
    Thanks for the informative that to detailed post. This will definitely help me in reissue of my passport. I have one query about police verification. Currently at my address I am staying alone so want to know do police call us in the police station or they do come at home? Just worried if they come to my home and I will not be there then? What documentation you did in police verification?
    Thanks,
    Paresh.

    ReplyDelete
  3. They usually call for verification to the police station. The documentation varies, but typically is about address proof, proof for duration of stay, 2 statements from neighbors about your character and how long they know you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Very well written and very fair.n balanced

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am not able to get Passport Appointment Online. Please provide tips on this.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Vivek, the process I believe changes based on user feedback. So not sure if it is still the same currently. The only key tip, that I have mentioned in the blog also is to not try to book this from official internet connection.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Don't ban a community, ban the acts

Saturating IT Industry

Nokia Lumia 730 Review