Passport renewal experience - take 2

It was more than three years back since I last had anything to do with the passport office.  I had then written about passport sewa woes,  passport application experiences and finally getting the passports.

My passport was due to expire end of 2015.  Sometime in April, I logged into Passport portal.  I had forgotten the password, but was allowed to reset after correctly answering the secret question.

I filled the passport renewal application online and saved it, deciding to submit it later.  I kind of forgot about it, till I got a reminder email a couple of days back.  It said "Your application will be automatically deleted by the system, since there is no activity".

So, I decided to pay the fee and schedule an appointment.  I chose SBI Netbanking to pay online.   The payment went off fine with a screen saying, "You will taken back in 10 seconds or click on a link".  I clicked on the link after a few seconds only to see myself in SBI's online banking screen with an error message.  No way to go back to the passport portal!

I managed to go back and chose my application and could click on "Payment Status".  The status was  "PENDING".  There was instructions asking to click on the "Re-verify" button, but try as I might, I could not locate the button in the screen!  It was late in the evening and I aborted further efforts.  I noticed that the instruction not to pay again, if paid once was prominently displayed in the page, indicating this is a frequent issue.

The next day, I logged in to find that the status had changed to "PAID".  I could now schedule appointments.  I was not sure what to expect - I assumed I could chose a date and time.  But that was not the case.  Appointments were available for the next day.  I clicked on "Book an appointment" and was asked to confirm.  No time slot - nothing.  I saw a "Confirmation of appointment" and the system gave me a 10.45 to 11.15 AM slot.

Well! it was a lot better than it was 3 years back, when the booking was a nightmare!   Not sure if I missed something or you can only take appointment for the next day.

Anyway, the next morning I was in passport office at 10 AM, having parked my vehicle in the nearby "Pay and park".  (It is quite spacious and is way better than putting your vehicle somewhere and risking another visit to the police station).

There were about 20 people already queued up in various counters in the "Reception" (and God knows how many had already gone in).  The lady who scrutinized my document (meagre ones - old passport copy and aadhaar for address proof), said I needed to take photocopy of the back side of aadhaar.  I have not figured out what exactly is on the back-side that does not figure in the front (the address for sure is out in front).  Anyway, the premise has a photostat with a person operating it, who charged just Rs.2/- for a copy (I provided the paper having the front side of the aadhaar to save on paper).  I could also go back to the counter "out-of-turn" instead of rejoining the queue at the end.

I was issued a token and went in through the turnstile, to a seating area.  Before I could think about sitting, one of the office staff called my token number.  That was quite fast!

The first step was the photograph.  I saw a camera mounted on a tripod and was asked to set the chair back against the wall.  The photo was ok, but after cropping and some effects, it didn't look great.  I didn't risk asking for another photo.  Then there was the fingerprinting, which actually led to authentication with aadhaar database (as I learnt when I got an email from Aadhaar).   There were a few forms to sign - specifically the signature in the passport.  There is a monitor where the final data for the passport was displayed to verify and correct, if required.  All the documents were scanned and uploaded, as well as put in a file.

It was only 10.15 when I was done in "Counter A".  Now I had to await "Counter B".  There were about 25 counters in Counter A - manned by TCS folks.   There were only 5 "B" and "C" counters - manned by actual passport office staff.  Of them I saw one "B" counter was vacant (possibly leave).  This was akin to descending from the Hosur-Bangalore elevated highway into the narrow Madiwala road.

After about 45 minutes wait, I was asked to go to Counter B, where there are just a few seats for those who wait.  People were standing  all over the place, as the passport office staff scrutinized the papers - rejecting a number of them for invalid/incomplete proofs - especially new passport applicants.  Once I managed to reach the counter, it was less than a minute before it was cleared and I was off to Counter C.  That call was quite fast and I appeared before the lady, who was quite surprised "Oh, your token number has come?"

Aadhaar as proof of address works well in passport office (or at least, so I believe)  - the only question being asked was "Is this your current address?".  The lady also wondered what my qualification was (looking at the ECNR/ECR section of the passport).   She put a "Cancel" seal on my current passport and I was done.

As I came out, I saw it was 11.20 - so the whole exercise had taken less than 90 minutes and potentially could take much less, with some smarter processing of specific categories and address proofs.

So takeaways:

a)  Photocopy of the backside of aadhaar
b)  Book an appointment the day before you want to go
c)  Go early and you can get off early
d)  Ensure you have an aadhaar with your current address, issued at least a year ago - that simplifies most of the validation
e)  Good to pray during payment!

Of course, fresh passport is still a different matter since you need proof of age (and aaadhaar is not a document for that, in case you didn't know, Mine does not have my date of birth - just year, though my wife's has it, having been issued later).

Update:  Passport was printed the next day and dispatched the day after.  Fantastic job!

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