Expats hide marital status to bend Indian passport rules

Expats hide marital status to bend Indian passport rules Sajila Saseendran / 2 June 2013 Short validity passport for Indians without marriage proof An applicant gets photographed at an Indian Passport and Visa Centre in Dubai. Indian expats are blaming their missions for not making people aware of the marriage certificate rules. — KT file photo for illustrative purpose Some married Indian expatriates are denying their marriage to keep their passports valid for more years, risking penal actions as per the Indian Passports Act, Khaleej Times has learnt. According to sources, this trend began after the Indian missions in the UAE started issuing short validity passports to applicants who did not have proper documentary proof of their marriage when they applied to renew their passports here. Applicants wait at a centre for visa renewal. — KT file photo Caught unawares Some Indian expatriates, who had to settle for short validity passports due to a rule related to proving their marriage while renewing their passports, are blaming the Indian missions here for not making people aware of the rule causing them to pay extra money. Citizens have called for clarity and better awareness of the rule that stipulates that married Indians should provide prescribed documents to prove their marriage while applying for reissue of passports. Samudar Singh from Rajasthan, who has been in Dubai for 18 years, said he had got his last passport reissued for 10 years from the Indian Consulate here. However, this time when he approached the mission through BLS International, the outsourcing agency for Indian passport and visa services, he was told that he could get his passport renewed only for two years. That was because his wife’s name was not endorsed in his passport and he did not have an attested marriage certificate to prove his marital status. “There was no such rule when I renewed my passport last time from here. I don’t know why they have brought in this rule now. I’m not an educated person, and I didn’t know any such rule. I wanted to renew my passport from India when I went on leave a couple of months back, but the officials over there said it will take almost two months since it needs clearance 
from Dubai.” Singh, who is in his 50s, said he had no formal certificate to prove his marriage. “There was no marriage registration in our place those days. We got married at our home. I don’t know how to make a marriage certificate now, let alone get it attested.” He said he was advised by Dubai officials to get his wife’s name added in his new passport with two-year validity when he goes home next time. “I don’t know when I can go on leave again and what I need to do for that.” Shanawaz Ahmed, 40, from Jharkand, who works as an electrician, said he had tried to renew his passport last year. “Then they issued me a passport with only one year validity because my new UAE residence visa had not been stamped after I changed job. At the time of visa stamping, the passport was not valid for more than six months, because of which I had to renew the passport.” However, he said he was not told about the need to produce an attested marriage certificate at that time. “This they told me only this time when I again went for a renewal as the one year validity was over. Had they told me about it last year, I would have tried to (get) it ready by this renewal.” Applicants said they are asked to attach an undertaking assuring the submission of attested marriage certificate, for typing which BLS is charging them Dh30 extra. They also pointed out that many, who would be issued a passport with a validity of two years, would be forced to apply for the next renewal of their passport earlier than expected since their UAE residence visa renewal will require passports to be valid for more than six months. While a full validity Indian passport is issued for 10 years, married Indian expatriates can now get passports renewed only for two years if the name of their spouse is not endorsed in the passport or if their marriage certificate is not attested by various authorities, such as the state Home Department where the marriage took place. Many Indians, mainly labourers, are in a fix due to a lack of knowledge about the rule that is now being strictly implemented, which is, according to some officials, partly intended to avoid marital litigations. Sources told Khaleej Times that some applicants were hiding their marital status when they were told about this rule. “When we tell them about this issue, uneducated labourers are upset and they express their difficulty in getting the procedures done,” said a source at BLS International, the outsourcing agency for Indian passport and visa services. “But, some smart men, mostly well-educated, quietly change their marital status in the application form so that they can get the full validity passport for 10 years. That is against the law,” he said on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media. According to the source, applicants face this issue mainly due to a lack of awareness about the importance of having their marriage certificates attested by the right authorities. “If this rule is well-known, people can get their marriage certificate attested well in advance and come with the proper documents when it is time for renewing their passport,” he said. As per the passport application form instruction booklet, an affidavit has to be sworn before a First Class Judicial Magistrate or Executive Magistrate for re-issue of a passport obtained prior to marriage, by married applicants who are unable to provide the prescribed marriage certificate or joint affidavit with their spouse due to marital discord, separation or total desertion by the spouse. The booklet states it is an offence punishable with imprisonment or fine or both, to furnish false information or suppress information, under relevant provisions of Section 12 of the Passports Act, 1967. Asked about the rule, the Indian Consulate in Dubai said in a statement to Khaleej Times: “It is mandatory to endorse the spouse’s name in one’s passport after marriage. The marriage certificate is required to be attested from the state Home Department.” “We are issuing a two-year validity passport to applicants who are married, but don’t have the attested certificate. When they submit the marriage certificate duly attested by the state Home Department, we issue a full validity passport. If the spouse’s name is already endorsed in the applicants’ spouse’s passport, we are endorsing the husband’s/wife’s name on the basis of the production of a marriage certificate even without attestation by the state Home Department concerned,” the mission added. According to official sources, missions are being lenient in issuing the short validity passport for the applicants since the expatriates’ lives depend on their passport validity. “This option is intended to help the expatriate Indians who require valid passports and visas to live here. One of the intentions for mandatory endorsement of (a) spouse’s details in the passport is to prevent cheating and marital litigations. There have been cases where some Non-Resident Indians had hidden their married status at their countries of residence and got married again there,” said one official. Indian Ambassador M.K. Lokesh acknowledged there should be more clarity and awareness about the rule. “Since ( Khaleej Times has) raised the issue, I have taken it up with the Ministry (of External Affairs). I have asked them to clarify the rule. We are also checking with other embassies in the region on how they are handling this.” He said a reply from the ministry was expected this week. – sajila@khaleejtimes.com Taylor Scott International

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