Visa and passport services for Indian expats to be brought under single umbrella from next year

Representative image for the visa. Photo: one photo / Shutterstock

Dubai: The delivery of services relating to the passports and attestation of documents for Indian expatriates will soon be brought under a unified agency.

These services, offered by the Indian Consulate and the Indian Embassy, are currently being delivered through two separate windows. The latest proposal envisages merging these two windows into one and ensuring speedy and efficient delivery of services.

The new service centres are expected to be operational from January 1, 2024, onwards. The Indian Embassy has already invited applications in this regard from the interested parties. Companies, which can deliver services quickly with transparency, while complying with the strict guidelines set by the Ministry of External Affairs, may apply. The new facility, which will have branches all across the UAE, also envisages doorstep delivery of the services.

All services under one umbrella
The services that are being outsourced to the agency include consular, passport, visa services, attestation of documents and other services to be delivered to the Indian expats through the embassy. The passport and visa-related services on behalf of the Indian Embassy and Consulate are currently being delivered through BLS International, while the attestation of documents and other services are being carried out by IVS Global.

All these services will be available in a single office with the introduction of a new agency, named the Indian Consular Application Centre (ICAC). The agency has also been accorded approval to deliver the consular, passport, and visa services on the doorsteps of the applicants. Instead of the usual practice of applicants waiting for hours in respective offices, the service provider will be reaching out to the customer at their place of stay.

Criterion set for service providers
All applications concerning Indians and foreigners seeking Indian visas will be handled by the ICAC. An average of four lakh services are currently being delivered through the Indian Embassy and the consulate every year. The number of applications being handled stands around 1600 per day.

Only those institutions that will have the capacity to handle such a huge volume of applications will be considered for opening the unified centre. Further, the applicant should have the capacity to open offices in all key locations of the UAE. The offices should have adequate parking space and ensure easy access to the public.

Applicants should have easy access
The authorities are currently planning to open the service centres at Al Khalediya, Reem, Mussafah, Al Ain, and Ghayathi in Abu Dhabi; Karama /Oud Metha, Marina, Al Khouse /Al Barsha, Deira, and Qusais in Dubai, besides Abu Shagara, Rolla and Kor Fakkan in Sharjah. One centre each will be opened at Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah.

The centres will function six days a week and the applications will be disposed of in two days. The applicants should be given online appointments within four days. When an applicant reaches a service centre, he should be able to complete all the processes, including the filing of the application and payment of the fee within 20 minutes. In case of a delay in delivering the service, the service provider will be imposed a fine for each day of delay.

Online tracking
The status of applications can be tracked through the website of the ICAC. The website will be made available in different languages, including English, Arabic, Hindi, Tamil, and Malayalam. An applicant can enter the website by selecting the language of his choice and will get replies to the queries over the phone, or by e-mail or SMS.

Biometric services
The agency will possess a biometric system that will collect even the minute details of the fingerprint, besides the face recognition details of the applicants. The ICAC will be tasked to collect the biometric details of the visa applicants as well as the biometric documents required for the chip-installed e-passport to be rolled out by the External Affairs Ministry.

The agency winning the contract should have its own system to collect and maintain such details, as it is also responsible for the prevention of leakage of critical details of applicants to the public domain. The interested agencies can participate in the tender proceedings till August 28 and the agency to be qualified will be given the contract on October 18.

The offices should be made functional within two months of receiving the contract, so that the ICAC offices can become operational by January 1, next year, as planned.

Service fee to be intimated in advance
The agency applying for the ICAC contract will be required to intimate the fee to be charged for each service to the Embassy in advance. The fee structure set initially by the winning agency will be applicable for the entire contract period of three years. The agency will not be allowed to charge extra in case of delivering additional services.

The agency will be permitted to charge up to 380 Dirhams for delivering door-step services while for the Premium Lounge service, the ceiling will be 300 Dirhams. Currently, the fee levied for delivery of premium lounge service is 225 Dirhams.

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