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Posts Tagged ‘Indian Passport Renewal US’

New service provider for Indian Passport, VISA ,PIO card in US

May 29, 2014 Leave a comment

If you have read my previous posts on Passport renewals, I am really shocked with the news release from the Indian consulates in US that they are once again changing the service provider for application of visa / passport / POI, that is for the third time in last two years.

Around May 2012, they outsourced it to VFS and then around May 2013 to BLS-India. Now starting 16th May 2014 to Cox & Kings Global Services Pvt. Ltd.
Here’s the website for the new service provider: http://www.in.ckgs.us

Obviously this is really frustrating for many. I read somewhere (I believe in an article on timesofindia) that the reason for this change was lots of complaints and poor reviews about BLS-India. I haven’t use their service personally so don’t have much to say about them but here’s my take on what might have went wrong with these providers.

My expectations as an applicant

To understand the real problem let me first write a list of my expectations from a standpoint of an applicant who wants to renew a passport (or apply for visa or PIO card).

  • Application process: The application process should be as simple as possible. [Right now there’s lot of stuff that you need to worry mainly when applying via mail e.g. getting documents notarized, photo specifications, confusion in documents required, request return service, etc.]
  • Information: The information required to apply for renewal of passport(or anything else) should be thorough and detailed. e.g List of documents needed, detailed information about the fields in the application form, Fees, other FAQs, etc. This information should be detailed enough to remove any ambiguity and cover as many scenarios as possible.
  • Inquiry: I prefer to talk to someone if I have questions on filling application or documents needed. [The time I have tried to contact the Consulate, 99% of time I have got the busy tone. I don’t even recall getting a wait message. Contacting via email has worked once or twice but not really helpful. So this is one area they need to focus a lot.]
  • Track status: Once I have sent my application and it has reached the destination, I should be able to know the status of my application until my passport(or other corresponding documents) is returned back to me. [ I have heard with the introduction o
    So basically 90% of my expectations falls under “I want Information”…on so and so…

Why these providers have failed?

The failure of these providers is due to: “The Consulates” (or indirectly the leaders in Consulates and/or the government). I say that from my experience with SFO consulate.

The “I need information…” is where the providers seems to have failed. The Consulates failed at the same and since they started garnering negative reviews and complaints, they came up with this “services providers” concept. Why? So they can skip the blame and put it on those providers.

My understanding is these service providers are just facilitator. E.g. Say I sent a mail through an independent agent for “XYZ Mail Service”. The agent can provide me the details on status of my mail but only what the “XYZ Mail Service” provides him with and nothing more.

So these providers can only provide the information to an applicant what they have got from the Consulate and nothing more. They don’t have any authoritative knowledge. If you contact them, they can only provide you with limited information and I believe that you would also get from their website.

And since they cannot answer my question, I would complaint and give negative feedback.

Also I think the government might have found the cheapest provider. So that will lead to the same problems(e.g. Understaffed and Small space) which lead to the failure of Consulates providing service in timely fashion.

Why have the Consulates failed?

So the question still remains why the Consulates failed and what can we do to make them succeed?

Understaffed: The major reason I think is they don’t have professional staff and that to enough in number. Fewer number of staff to answer the queries and concerns means a lot of load on single person. And honestly dealing with many frustrated people would frustrate the service staff as well. And we as an Indian, aren’t trained hard at Customer service. So if the customer loses his/her patience, so does the staff.

Small space: Another reason I think is space. I haven’t been to any Consulates in US recently but I believe, they might be small and in the same small place where they might have started years back. They haven’t upgraded to larger space and this not only is inconvenient for the people but due to space constraint they would remain understaffed as well.

The reason for above could be several. First the head of staff is irresponsible and doesn’t care and don’t have a vision. Another reason could be they are not well-funded and they need to work within the small budget.

Whatsoever be the reason, the citizens of India suffer at the end.

Though it’s been 2+ years I contacted Indian Consulate but that experience isn’t easy to forget and so I am here still ranting about that.

Indian Passport Renewal in US at VFS Global

August 7, 2012 92 comments

Indian_Passport

NOTE: After 21st May, 2014 BLS-India is no longer the service provider. The new provider is Cox & Kings Global Services Pvt. Ltd.

NOTE: After 7th May, 2013 VFS is no longer the service provider. The new provider is BLS International.

Sometime back in April/May 2012 all Indian Consulates in US (New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Houston and San Francisco) has engaged M/s VFS Global as an outsourcing agency for facilitating the process of obtaining passport related services.

So these Consulate offices will no longer entertain any direct applications or queries related to passport services. You need to contact VFS Global.

VFS Global website: http://www.vfsglobal.com/india/usa/

I had a quick look at the website to see what and all has changed. Most of the process is almost similar to the one I mentioned here in my post – Passport Renewal at Indian Consulate in San Francisco – Basic Process but I will give a highlight of few things that have been changed.

Note: I am discussing mainly on Re-issue of Passport after 10 years.

Disclaimer: Information here is from my own understanding and reading. Always rely on the information provided on your respective consulate’s website.

Application Process Changes

1: Online Application Form:

Now you apply through the http://www.vfsglobal.com/india/usa/ website and not the individual Consulate’s website.

2: Applying in Person:

If you are planning to apply in person you need to go to the respective VFS Global office and not the Consulate office. This is what they say:

You are requested not to go by the appointment date printed on the application form.
After filling up your online application form, please call 202 800 7412 to book your appointment (9Am – 6PM) or schedule it online.

      3:

Applying via Postal Mail

    :

If you are planning to apply via postal mail you need to submit the documents to the respective VFS Global office and not the Consulate office. Check the postal application procedure here.

4: Passport Return Service when applying via postal mail:

Now if you want VFS to return your new passport back via post, you will have to compulsory send the pre-paid return envelope. Previously I know with  CGI-SFO you could send a separate money order of $20 as return mail service. This facility is no longer available with VFS. This is what they have to say:

Please Send your prepaid, return envelope if you wish, your processed application, is returned to you by post. Please do not send money / money order / include postage cost in the money order, we are not purchasing courier for the applicants on USPS. Applications expecting service of this nature may face infinite delays.

5: Application Fees:

For re-issue of passport after 10 years is $43(application fee) + $3(VFS Service Fee) i.e. total $46. This does not include any mailing fees as mentioned in my previous point. For more on fees check here.

6: Photographs:

Now they need 3 photographs. Before they asked for only 2 (at least for SFO).

7: Track your Application

Now you can track your application progress. This seems one of the good thing, though I don’t have any personal experience with it so I don’t know how efficient is it. Still definitely a step in right direction.

8: Customer Center:

You can call for information at +1-202-800-7412. I haven’t called them but from one of the comments in my other post, I think now you might be able to get hold of some person more easily than before (By the way at SFO, my call never went through).

Other general changes

I noticed following on VFS website news page:

4 June 2012: ‘Extension of Validity of Passport’ – Service, is no longer available: all applicants will have to apply for fresh passports.

They haven’t made any more clarification on that. So what I understand it if you have a passport issued under Tatkal Scheme(which has 5 years validity) will not be Extended for another 5 years. Instead you will have to apply for fresh passport(which is same as renewal).

4 June 2012: At Present, Only US Address will be printed on passport issued in USA, even if you desire to have Indian address as mentioned on the application form

I don’t know how much it matters to most of the people but it’s worth noting.

Another important point I noticed is:

Receipt Notice of I-797 and I-485 is Not accepted as proof of Valid Visa only Approval Notices are accepted

Say your visa stamp in your passport and your visa are expired. You have applied for extension and maintaining your status based on H1 extension receipt. On the top say now your passport is expiring. So now you cannot apply for passport renewal until your H1 is approved. I am not sure what happens if your H1 gets rejected and your passport is also expired. It is a very rare case scenario. That simply means don’t wait until last minute to renew your passport.

Conclusion

Overall I see VFS as a step in right direction. These are some of the changes I noticed. There could be more, which I will update as I come across.

I would like to hear about your experience on passport application with VFS Global. So feel free to leave your comments.

Resources

Passport Renewal at Indian Consulate in San Francisco–Received my new passport

March 5, 2012 11 comments

NOTE: After 7th May, 2013 VFS is no longer the service provider. The new provider is BLS International. 

Note: Starting May 3,2012 The Consulate General of India, San Francisco, would no more, directly accept applications, either in person or through mail for passport related services.

Now you need to go through Website: www.vfsglobal.com/india/usa

Check my post(07-Aug-2012): Indian Passport Renewal in US at VFS Global

Finally I got my renewed passport.

If you read my earlier post, I was asked to submit Personal Proforma along with a letter stating my police verification was done.

I submitted the required documents immediately. There was no reply from them for a week after they received the documents. So I sent them an email using their status enquiry form. Since I need to fly to India in a week, I request them to return my current valid passport. This was on Friday morning. I didn’t hear from them until evening. Only one week left for my trip, I was kind of desperate. It’s hard to make any decision since you don’t get any response. I don’t even know if the email I sent was read or not. So I wrote a letter and mailed it to them to return my current valid passport and told them I will renew it after I return from my India trip.

But before the letter reached them, I received my renewed passport along with the current passport.

How much time it took to renew my passport

It took a total of 39 days from the day they received my application package and the day I received the passports in hand. My earlier experience with them was like 2-3 weeks. So it depends on your luck.

My new passport

  • The new passport has a totally new passport number. It is not the same as old passport.
  • The 10 years validity is from the date it is issued and not from the date my current passport is expiring.

Current passport

  • There is a stamp of the first page of my current passport stating something like: ‘This passport is cancelled but the current visas are not cancelled”. So yes, the visa in the current passport is not cancelled.
  • Carry your old passport(s) with you along with the new one.

Conclusion

It wasn’t a pleasant experience but a happy ending. Feel free to share your experience or leave a comment if you have any question.

Passport Renewal at Indian Consulate in San Francisco – Police Verification and Proforma Form

February 24, 2012 19 comments

Note: Starting May 3,2012 The Consulate General of India, San Francisco, would no more, directly accept applications, either in person or through mail for passport related services.

Now you need to go through Website: www.vfsglobal.com/india/usa

Check my post(07-Aug-2012): Indian Passport Renewal in US at VFS Global

 

This is the continuation of my blog post Passport Renewal at Indian Consulate in San Francisco – Basic Process.

CGISF website lists that their general processing time for passport is 25 days. Since I didn’t hear anything from them after 25 days, I sent them a message via their passport status enquiry form in the afternoon . They replied me the same business day. Here’s their reply:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Please refer to your passport application USASPXXXXX

Please submit a Proforma form (http://www.cgisf.org/pdf/ppertpro.pdf) duly filled with photos for further verification with Indian authorities as the Police verification is mentioned as Incomplete / Blank / Adverse by the previous passport issuing authority.

Also please confirm in writing if your police verification was duly complete when you received your last held passport and whether all the particulars in the passport including the address are correct.

Make sure you give your Indian address, as verification cannot be complete without it. Please mark the form to the attention of Vice Consul (Passport), Consulate General of India, San Francisco with copy of this letter as soon as possible.

If your Police verification is adverse then, passport will be issued only upon receipt of the clearance.

Vice Consul(Passport)

I have a ticket booked to India in next two weeks. It just pisses me off that why can’t they ask for this earlier. Why they have to wait until I ask them. Leaving my anger aside I started digging what police verification is and why they didn’t ask for that form and information earlier or did I miss that.

After digging in their site I found a reference to where they mention submitting it. It’s in their Supporting Document section. Here’s the snippet:

Please note that for all cases where the police verification status is incomplete, Personal Verification Form is to be submitted. In order to reduce the processing time, it is advisable that the applicant also include filled in Personal Verification Form while sending their application.

But they don’t mention in which cases the police verification status can be incomplete. I couldn’t find about it anywhere in their FAQ’s or on their entire website.

What is this Police Verification(PV)?

Here’s the detailed Police Verification FAQ. From reading the faq I undertand PV refers to the visit of a police officer/constable to your house and verifying you indeed reside at the address(es) you mentioned in your passport application. This can be for all the addresses you lived in last one year. If you were not home and later you visited the police station personally, that is also part of police verification.

Note: Don’t confuse PV with Police Clearance Certificate.

Why I need PV?

Why do they say ”…the Police verification is mentioned as Incomplete / Blank / Adverse by the previous passport issuing authority.”

My passport was issued first under Tatkal(Urgent). As per the PV FAQ when the passport is issues under Tatkal, police verification is done after the issuance of passport. And then I remembered that after I got my passport, I did got a call from my local police station to go there along with one witness, my neighbor. Ok that makes sense now.

My Case

Above all is fine but to me in my case all the above doesn’t make any sense. And some one might ask why did I ignore the note in their document section about the PV requirments? Get ready to listen to my story.

1: With Tatkal, you need to submit a Verification Certificate from MLA or high level government officer along with the passport application. In my case, I asked my friend’s dad, Police Commissioner of my City. He gave me a letter to take to my local police station which asked the corresponding police station to submit their Verification in 3 days to the main Police Commissioner’s office. The person working on passport cases at my local police station, told me that their office can only give clearance after they receive clearance from the remaining police station in the city. This will take at least 7 days and the only way to get this done in 3 days is if I personally go to rest all police stations in my city, get the clearance letter from them and submit it to his office. Then he can give clearance from his office. I said ok and went to all the police stations in my city and got the letters and submitted to this guy. Not sure what he did then, but I called my friend’s dad and he asked me to go to his office next day and get the Verification Letter. I got that and submitted that and got my passport in Tatkal in 7 days.

So what more verification they needed, isn’t me going to all the police stations in person and they giving me clearance record enough.

2: My Tatkal passport validity was extended by SFO Consulate 4+ years ago. I went in person to submit and pickup the passport. I remember the person as counter mentioning that the renewal time is subject to police verification from India. They extended my passport in about 3-4 weeks. Didn’t they see this at that time? How were they able to extend the passport? Shouldn’t they have mentioned this to me at that time, 5 year ago instead of creating trouble now.

Due to the above things, it didn’t make any sense for me to believe that my PV is pending.

My Status

I mailed them as soon as I received their response explaining my above situation, my ticket to India and asking them how long will it take for them to renew once they receive the document. No response for 24+ hours and so I prepared the asked documents and sent it via overnight mail. I reached at USPS after their cutoff time and so had to sent it via UPS @$32.

Documents I sent:

  • Personal Particulars Proforma form
  • Personal letter mentioning that my police verification was done and also in brief my above experience. (Let me know if anyone needs a sample)
  • Copy of their email asking for the above information
  • Since my parents moved to a new house, I also sent my telephone bill as address proof in India. Though I don’t know if it was necessary.
  • Cover letter

Bottom-line for others:

Submit the Personal Particulars Profoma whether you have your PV done or not. It’s no harm submitting. If your passport says PV is already done, they won’t use that form.

Conclusion

I mentioned in the cover letter about returning my current passport if they cannot renew it before my travel date.  I don’t know if they do it or not. I am hoping to get my passport renewed as I was reading on a forum, someone had the same query and he/she got the passport in 5 business days after submitting the documents. I will update my status progress.

Update(03/05/2012): Got my passport in about 11 days after submitting the proforma. Check the post here: http://t.co/VP6nZAf7

Hope this helps.

Resources

Passport Renewal at Indian Consulate in San Francisco – Basic Process

January 26, 2012 4 comments

NOTE: After 21st May, 2014 BLS-India is no longer the service provider. The new provider is Cox & Kings Global Services Pvt. Ltd.

NOTE: After 7th May, 2013 VFS is no longer the service provider. The new provider is BLS International. 

Note: Starting May 3,2012 The Consulate General of India, San Francisco, would no more, directly accept applications, either in person or through mail for passport related services.

Now you need to go through Website: www.vfsglobal.com/india/usa

i.e. the information mentioned below is kind of out-dated. They changed several things. So rely on the information provided at above website.

Check my post(07-Aug-2012): Indian Passport Renewal in US at VFS Global

 

I applied for passport renewal at Indian Consulate in San Francisco. Here I am going to explain the basic process and my experience.

I will go through the basic process and not any special case. Although this is what I followed with Consulate in SFO,  I believe it should be almost identical for other Indian consulates in US as well. Also I am going to explain for “Applying by Mail” but most of the thing should remain same

Note: Always check the Consulate’s website for current procedure and requirements. The process, links or information in this post can be out-dated.

Go to the website of Consulate General of India, San Francisco (www.cgisf.org). Look for link to Passport section.

Read the general instruction to get the feeling of the current basic process, required documents, fees, etc. You need to determine

Fresh Passport or Renewal of Passport :

The process is same whether you are applying for Fresh Passport or Renewing an passport that is nearing completion of 10 years from date of issue. Here is the basic process.

Note: If you are holding a Short-term validity passport i.e. issued under Tatkal which has validity of 5-years, the process is different. It is termed ‘Extension’ and not Renewal. I will talk about it at the end.

Step 1: Completing the online application (You can find the link to the online application here.)

Filling this form is not too difficult. Detailed guidelines for completing the online application can be found here. Read it carefully to avoid any mistakes.

Once you are done filling all the required information, click Save. If you missed any of the required fields or entered some characters(,$./ etc) you might be prompted for that. If everything is ok, you will be taken to next page where a ‘File No’ will be assigned to your application and you will be given option to select the appointment date. Select appropriate date if you are going in person. If applying by mail, you can ignore this and and click ‘Confirm the Appointment’. This will generate a 4 page printable PDF document. Save this to your computer and if you have printer ready, print the document.

So online portion is finished but you still have some information to complete on the printed copy.

Step 2: Filling remaining application by Hand

The information to complete the application can be found here. It’s the same page with information to complete online application. The information is mostly general and quite easy to understand. Fill it out and sign wherever required.

Step 3: Passport Photos

You will need two 2×2 inches passport photographs with requirement as mentioned here.

I got it at Costco (4.99+tax for 2 photos) but there you can find different other options here.

Paste one Photo in the box on page1 of the application. Paste second photo on the page 4 where it says Official Use.

I signed the photo as my appearance has changed that what I look in my current passport. There is also a requirement that you need to get that photo notarized if you look different in current photo and photo in current passport. More details ahead on notarizing.

Step 3: Collect Supporting Documents

Collect all the supporting documents as listed here. Note that they require color copies for Proof of Status.

I submitted color copy of US Driver’s License for proof of residence in US. I was little confused if I should also be providing the proof of residence for India. I got recent electricity bill, telephone bill and gas bill from India but I did not send it. My application is still in process. I will and update if they ask for it.

Note: Whether you  need a Police Verification or not, I would suggest you submit the Personal Proforma form and a letter stating that your police verification was done. Read my post on it here.

Step 4: Notarizing the photocopies and photograph

When you are applying by mail, you will have to get the photocopies for proof of status, residence, etc. notarized.

I found a notary off the craigslist. She charged me about $5/page. If you are in California you can check the license validity of a notary public here. Ask the person for their full name and License number.

I had to get my Passport photograph notarized as well, but she said since it was on page 4 of the application, she won’t be able to notarize it as single and she notarized entire application. Though she charged $10 for that.

Step 5: Fees

The fee for fresh renewal for me was $40. They accept cashier’s check or money order only. No personal checks.

Cashier’s Check: I checked with Bank Of America and they were charging $10 for a cashier’s check(any amount) if you are having a regular checking account. It was free if some preferred or something account. I think some credit unions have $5 and some offer free to their members.

Money Order: I got money order from USPS. Their charge is $1.10($0-$500). I actually got two MOs – $40 regular fee and $20 for overnight return mail.

Step 6: Applying by Mail

If you are applying by mail you need to take care of these 3 things:

a) You must send your Original previous and passport(s). Also photocopy of current passport even though you are sending the original.

b) All the photocopies should be notarized. Exception notarization of copies of passport is not required (since you are sending the original along).

c) You must send a pre-paid Self-addressed return mailing envelop (Express/overnight) with tracking. Or you can send a separate Cashier’s check or Money order of $20(this may change, so check their website) as return mailing fee.

I sent a M.O of $20.

I will update this on how my renewal goes. I know I have also to write about renewing a short validity passport. Thought will keep it for next post.

Update(02/23/2012): CGISF requested for additional form and information. I have written a new post for that, Passport Renewal at Indian Consulate in SFO – Police Verification and Porforma Form.

Resources:

Hope this helps.

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