India brings back police verification for passport renewal to check criminal background of expats

An information roll up outside BLS International office in Deira advising applicants to book online appointment before coming. Photo : Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
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Dubai: India has brought back police verification for checking criminal background of its overseas citizens when they apply for passport renewal, Gulf News can exclusively reveal.

The Indian Consulate in Dubai confirmed to Gulf News that the mission received internal guidelines from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to resume police verification for all passport renewal applications in September following a change in policy.

Based on the instructions from the ministry, the mission has assigned an officer to segregate passport applications that require police verification pre or post issuance of the passports, Siddhartha Kumar Baraily, consul (passport and attestation), told Gulf News.

Siddhartha Kumar Baraily

Siddhartha Kumar Baraily

“There are two types of police verifications — one which happens before issuing the passport and the one which happens after issuing the passport. Almost 90 per cent of the applications are being processed before police verification is done. We require police verification for issuing the passports in the case of applicants whose last passports were not issued in the UAE or those who have not continuously been on UAE resident visas for the last five years,” he said.

Though passports are issued for the majority of applicants before police verification is received, he said, police would still do the checks on them and give feedback to the mission post issuance of the passports. “If we see any adverse comments from the police, we will contact the passport holder and seek clarification.”

Apply early to avoid delay

For those requiring pre-verification for passport reissue, it would take extra time from two to three days up to two to three weeks, he confirmed.

“Police in some states like Andhra Pradesh which are using the mPassport app are completing verification process in just two days. Some others are taking a little longer time especially due to the COVID-19 situation in India.”

“Considering that there could be delays in passport reissuance, we urge Indian expats to apply well in time, say two to three weeks ahead of the passport expiry. We are allowing people to apply for renewal up to one year before expiry of passport without pre-approval from the consulate.”

If they delay, the diplomat said expats might have to apply for Tatkal passport, which cost higher, if they want the passport in emergency situations. In case of genuine emergency situations where applicants cannot afford Tatkal passport, he said, they can write to the consulate at [email protected] for assistance. He said the passport section of the consulate is now working on Saturdays as well.

How it works

According to the diplomat, an email notification is automatically sent to applicants whose passports are going for police verification before reissuance.

Reiterating that this would happen only in the case of about 10 per cent of the applicants, the diplomat said expats need not panic about the government checking their criminal background.

“This is just to verify the identity of the applicants as Indian citizens and that there are no criminal cases registered against them since the time the last police verification was done on them.”

Physical police verification, where cops visit the houses of the applicants for new passports, was done away for reissuance of Non-Resident Indians’ (NRI) passports in 2015, provided there was a clear police report in the issuance of the first passport.

However, Baraily said police checks were still on in the background for applicants whose last passports were issued in India.

How it is done

Currently, the mission is connected to the police headquarters in each district in India to help process the police verifications quickly. “We are directly connected to all district police headquarters in India through an internal system. Based on the pin code of the address given in the application, the request for police verification will be sent to the district police concerned. The district police headquarters then assigns the local police station to do the verification and their feedback comes back through the same channel,” Baraily explained.

Proposal for police check reforms

The diplomat assured that the mission was addressing concerns of the Indian expats related to the police verification process.

“There is no need for policemen to visit the houses of the applicants and ask for unnecessary documents. We do not require them to prove the address of the applicant. He said the Indian police are now equipped to check the criminal records of people through the database of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS).

According to Indian media reports, the CCTNS has started receiving data from 36 states and Union Territories, providing investigators a pan-India database. Baraily said the mission has also taken into consideration concerns of long-time UAE residents who may not have a permanent address in India or nobody is living in their residences to provide details about them.

“Taking into consideration about the specific requirements we have, the Consul General of India Dr Aman Puri has given concrete feedback to the MEA to recommend the Ministry of Home Affairs about the way the police verification can be reformed for Indian expats. We are expecting new guidelines for police verification for expats to be implemented by the end of the year.”

The consulate is also encouraging people whose address in their passports are no longer valid to change the address.

Concerns of applicants

Meanwhile, some passport applicants contacted Gulf News with their concerns about the police verification.

Sandeep. T.A, an Indian expat in Dubai, said he had applied for renewal of both his and his wife’s passports on October 15.

“We received my wife’s passport by October 19, but didn’t get mine. The next day, my friend whose number I had provided in the application since my parents are here with me, received a call from the local police for verification of our details. I am yet to get my passport and every time I check the tracking system, it says the application is under processing at the consulate.”

Sandeep, whose previous passport was issued in Kochi in Kerala, claimed that he had not received any email about police verification.

“We had applied through the premium lounge of the BLS International [the outsourced agency that processes Indian passport and visa applications in the UAE]. Yet, I was not informed about this delay,” he said, urging the mission to ensure applicants are informed about the delay and it is reflected on the BLS application tracking system. “I hope I will get my passport by November second week at least because I need to renew my medical insurance,” he said.

Another Indian expat who applied for passport on October 22, said he received an email on October 25 about police verification for his application. He said his father in Bengaluru was contacted by the local police and he was asked to present the Aadhaar card, India’s national identity card, of both of them and other details for the police verification.

“Fortunately, I have an Aadhaar card, which is still not mandatory for NRIs. But I don’t understand why they were asking for all these when I have been living in the UAE for the past 17 years and my last passport was issued in Dubai.”

Sources told Gulf News that the consulate and BLS International, the outsourced agency that processes Indian passport and visa applications, have been receiving several calls from passport applicants concerned about police verification. Gulf News found that NRIs from other countries have also aired their concerns to the Indian authorities on Twitter.

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