| The Passport Seva Kendra at Ashiana More. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
The Regional Passport Office (RPO) has issued a circular stating that all non-machine readable (handwritten) passports will be phased out by November 24, 2015.
This is the second time the RPO has issued a circular asking holders of handwritten passports, which can’t be digitally read, to surrender their documents and apply for a fresh one. The circular is meant for non-machine readable passports or passports with a validity of 20 years. The last handwritten passport was issued in 2001.
The order is in accordance with the decision of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that no one would be allowed to travel on handwritten passports. India is part of the organisation.
The rule, which is applicable globally, will come into effect from November 25, 2015. Countries that are part of the ICAO will not issue visas to persons holding passports that are non-machine readable or valid for 20 years.
Regional passport officer Anand Kumar said: “From 2001, machine readable passports were issued with a validity of 10 years. We are urging people who were issued passports before 2001 to submit their old handwritten passports and apply for a new one.”
Many passports issued between 1997 and 2000 had a validity of 20 years — or until 2017 to 2020 — but under the new rule, they will become worthless from November 25 next year.
Kumar said it would not be possible to say the number of such passports still in existence since there was no data storage before 2002 when the services were computerised. “It is difficult to say how many passports were issued during 1997-2000. On an average, 30,000 passports were issued in a year then by the RPO, Patna, which works out to around 90,000 passports from 1997 to 2000.” From November 25, 2015, onwards, foreign governments may deny visa or entry to any person travelling with a non-machine readable passport. The RPO issued a circular last year regarding this, but till now the office has received less than 1,000-odd applications from persons wishing to give up their pre-2001 passports. “The number of old passport holders’ figure will be higher but due to lack of awareness of the deadline, people are not approaching the RPO.”
Kumar’s statement was borne out by octogenarian Ram Gulam Sahu and his wife Rampari Devi, both of who carry passports issued in 1998 and valid for 20 years. Neither was aware that their passports would become useless by November 25, 2015. Sahu, a retired chief engineer in the irrigation department, said: “I didn’t know that my passport’s validity is till 2015.”
For enquiries, passport holders can contact the Passport Sewa Kendra at Ashiana More from 10am to 1.30pm on any working day or the RPO at Maurya Lok. Alternatively, they can call on 0612-2223267 or dial toll free 1800-258-1800.