Move to streamline processing; but Passport printer is a must
Venkat Raman –
The Indian High Commission is currently finalising plans to outsource its visa services, allowing its officials to concentrate on other activities promoting diplomacy and official visits by government officials from India.
High Commissioner Sanjiv Kohli revealed this information at a meeting held with the officials of the New Zealand India Central Association (NZICA) at his office in Wellington on Thursday, November 10, 2016.
NZICA President Bhikhu Bhana, who led his delegation with General Secretary Prakash Biradar and other officials, told Indian Newslink that the meeting held as a part of regular engagement with the Diplomatic Mission enabled his organisation to inform officials firsthand the concerns of the Indian community in New Zealand, while providing an insight into the problems of the Mission.
“Mr Kohli said that his office will shortly issue tenders to eligible companies of the private sector in New Zealand to receive visa applications, process them and then forward to the High Commission for final assessment and service. The outsourcing process will see offices (presumably of the approved company) established in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch,” he said.
Mr Kohli said that the process of selecting the eligible company is likely to be completed over the next six months.
“This is a major breakthrough for NZICA, which has been discussing the issue of delays in visa services and difficulty in accessing the Indian High Commission. We have been told that with the establishment of visa processing centres, those seeking visa services need not dispatch their passports to Wellington. We are happy that our Association has been able to facilitate this important development,” Mr Bhana said.
However, it is not known if the service would cost more, as it has in the case of diplomatic missions that have outsourced their visa services.
Issue of passports is a major issue that needs attention and we hope that NZICA will take up the issue with the Indian High Commission, just as Indian Newslink did in 2010 when New Delhi decided to centralise issue of passports. Indian government does not usually renew expired passports or issue additional booklets to existing passports. Instead, the regulation requires issue of new passports.
New Zealand is not a centre where passport printing facility exists, thereby necessitating a waiting period of at least eight to ten weeks. Embassies and High Commissions of India in other countries such as Singapore and Malaysia have passport printers and hence new passports are issued within five working days.
The then Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi had promised to consider early positioning of this facility. Mr Bhana and others may like to discuss this matter with the High Commission. We would be happy to facilitate.
Grieving families support
Mr Bhana said that the Indian High Commission is considering the possibilities of providing assistance in sending bodies of students at its cost or at subsidised cost to poor families back home in India.
“The High Commission has asked NZICA to assist in this process. Since we have branches and associate branches covering many states in India, this networking would help in selecting worthy recipient families,” he said.
However, it is important to ensure that there are no delays in order that bereaving families in India are not subject to emotional hardships. Indian Newslink coordinated with the Indian High Commission two months ago in sending the body of a young man who died in a car accident in South Taranaki. This was achieved over a weekend.
Mr Bhana and his colleagues also discussed the issue of students facing deportation.
“We know this is a complex situation and no one can be blamed exclusively. Mr Kohli said that no genuine student would face deportation. The High Commission has spoken to officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade and a number of universities and tertiary institutions,” he said.
Mr Bhana said that the High Commission is constantly considering possibilities of bringing cultural groups and artistes from India to enhance cultural awareness in the region.
“Mr Kohli said that it would be more cost-effective if visiting artistes and groups can visit multiple countries and cities rather than visiting only New Zealand. We have promised to consult other Indian organisations in Fiji and Australia to assist the High Commission more effectively,” he said.
Accessing the Mission
Mr Bhana conveyed the frustration of many people in accessing services at the High Commission.
“It is not always easy to connect with the High Commission officials. Mr Kohli has encouraged clients to use the High Commission website to apply for services and track the progress of their application online. NZICA has a Liaison Committee to assist the public on matters concerning the Indian High Commission,” he said.
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Sanjiv Kohli (second from left) with the NZICA delegation. Directly behind him are Prakash Biradar and Bhikhu Bhana