Staff Correspondent

Time for "tatkal" passports reduced

SHIMLA: Union Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma formally opened the much-awaited State Passport Office in the historic Railway Board building here on Friday.

Addressing media persons, he said it was a longstanding demand of the people of the hill State to have passport and consular services in Shimla. "It is the 32nd passport office in the country," said Mr. Sharma, adding that new passport offices would now follow in Amritsar, Coimbatore, Dehra Dun and Raipur.

Biometric

The Minister also announced the introduction of biometric passports that would be having machine-readable chips. Such passports will be issued to everyone from next year onward, he added.

He also announced that the District Passport Centres at Dharamsala, Mandi, Nahan, Hamirpur and Kalpa in Himachal would be upgraded and strengthened to function as Regional Collection Centres. Each of these centres would collectively cater to the needs of people living in far-flung districts of the State.

To avoid the earlier cumbersome criterion of police verification, he said, there would now be 14 alternative measures like production of electoral photo identity card, income tax return, PAN and property documents out of which only three would be needed for a passport to be issued. But there would be post-issuance police verifications, he added.

Renewal

The time for issuance of new "tatkal" passports stood reduced to 14 days from the earlier 20 and renewal of old passports would take only seven days instead of the earlier 10, he said.

About 44 lakh new passports had been issued in the country last year, he added.