Getting a valid Indian passport in hand is an achievement by itself. The process is cumbersome and can stump you right when you least expect. Once you get your passport in hand, you should celebrate, I am not kidding, you must go out and revel in the happiness of not worrying about a passport for another ten years.
In this article, I am going to share the process of getting an Indian passport, a fresh one or a re-issue. The process for normal passport is more or less similar to Tatkal. I went through a rigorous ordeal for over three months in getting an appointment to go to the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK). The experience makes me angry, and loathe at the people behind complicating the passport process.
When I got my fresh passport, around eleven years earlier, the process was very simple. I went into the passport regional office, filled out a form, got it attested by a gazetted officer, and submitted the application. A police verification ensued and in the next few days, I had a passport delivered to my home. Now, the advent of technology has made things worse. Sometimes I wonder if technology is employed to assist us or is it a means of making money for middle men such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
The entire passport program (website, backend engine and solution) is outsourced to TCS, including the personnel sitting in the PSK. A company strong on operational excellence has stumbled greatly in coming up with a decent process for obtaining a passport for the common man. I sometimes wish that a close relative of mine works in the external affairs ministry, which could help me bypass the half baked process.
Without anymore blabbering, here is what you need to do to get an Indian passport:
1. Application Process
The application process is online. You will first need to register on the passport website and fill out a new application by selecting the appropriate category – fresh/reissue/others.
Make sure that you enter full names only. No initials allowed. The application takes initials but you will face problems at the PSK.
Upon saving and submitting the form, you will get a new ARN number and this application is valid for a period of ninety days.
2. Scheduling an Appointment
The most frustrating part of the passport process. You are required to take an appointment on the same website. It sounds easy but the problem is that there are no appointments available whenever you check.
Here is the trick to get an appointment. The appointment calendar opens up on all days except Wednesday and Sunday at 6PM. So, you need to start refreshing the appointments page from 5.57PM to make sure that you get a slot, and don’t bother for choosing the slot of your choice. Whatever you get, grab it without thinking twice. The appointments are at the most available for thirty seconds, so you need to ensure that you have a good broadband internet and a fairly quick machine to back you up. If you miss it, you need to repeat the process the next day.
I have tried this for over a month and a half (not everyday of course) in vain. When I couldn’t guarantee sitting in front of a fast broadband powered machine at 6PM religiously, I hired a passport consultant to do it for me. He tried for another two months to get an appointment and finally he did get me one.
Once you get an appointment, take a print out of the application form which is your ticket to PSK.
3. Visit to PSK
PSK calls for a sound process for smooth functioning but TCS, being the giant it is, has disappointed gravely.
The appointment letter to PSK comes with a batch number and a sequence number. And, the appointment time along with the reporting time.
While the batch number has some meaning in getting processed, the sequence number is meaningless. It is just a number that is given to applicants which has no consequence. You can as well ignore it but the batch number ensures that you get processed at the scheduled hour. There is a batch scheduled every thirty minutes. The reporting time is fifteen minutes prior to the appointment.
Some PSKs have the option of seating applicants at the time of reporting while others make you stand in line at the PSK gate, which is torturous. In Bangalore, the Lal Bagh PSK has an AC room for applicants to wait while the Sai Arcade PSK makes applicants stand in line outside the premises.
a. Token Process
At the scheduled hour, applicants are led to the first junction where they are required to obtain a token. This section is nightmarish. Lines are supposed to single files, but these are hardly managed. People jump up on one another, cut the line or do anything possible to get to the token agents.
The token agents check if you have all the documents in order and then issue a token. It is a time consuming process, and there is absolutely no control mechanism for timing, ensuring those who are higher up in the sequence to come first or bringing some order to this disorderly chaos.
When you get a token in hand, you can breathe freely. The toughest and most arduous part of the application process is done, although your application process is yet to begun.
Oh by the way, token agents are employees of TCS.
b. Initial document check and Finger Printing
After you get your token, you don’t have to wait in lines no more. PSKs are sprawled with chairs where applicants can sit and wait for their token numbers to be displayed on the screens.
The first leg is the initial document checks and fingerprinting process. When your token is displayed on the LCD, walk up to the respective counter and your documents will be checked and your finger prints will be collected. Your portrait will be photographed as well. Wear something dark as the background is creamish white.
You are expected to pay your passport fees in this counter.
The agents in this counter are TCS employees, and they are nicely equipped with dual monitors, one facing the agent and the other the applicant. A printer and a document scanner is available at every counter which is nice bit of gadgetry. This counter is called as the A counter.
After you are done with the requisites in this counter, await your turn for the next – the B counter.
c. Document Verification Counter
The B counter is handled by passport office employees. They verify all your documents with the originals, and if all is well, promote you to the C counter. If some document is not in place, they will ask you to bring it on the same day or ask you to appear the following day. Make sure that you don’t miss out on any of the documents. You definitely don’t want to visit the PSK again, for another ten years remember!
The passport office employees take a break between 1.30PM and 2.15PM. So, be aware of the waiting period extension owing to this.
d. Passport Grant Counter
This is the final hurdle between you and the passport in hand. Generally things should go fine here. They double check if all documents are in order and then stamp your old passport (for reissue) marking as GRANTED.
Normal application process should take twenty working days while Tatkal is around five working days. In Tatkal, police verification is done after issuing a passport while Normal application calls for police checks before handing over the passport to you.
After being processed at the PSK, be sure to take an acknowledgement sheet from the acknowledgement counter.
The best part about the passport process is that everything is automated, and the workflow between the various counters is recorded without any manual intervention. So, when you get your acknowledgement, you get all the details, including the documents you submitted, the sum paid and the status of your application.