Saturday, May 11, 2013

Live Enrollment Centers planned in 68 districts, 32 missions abroad to ease MRP issuance

KATHMANDU, May 11: With the objective of making passport service delivery hassles-free and quick, the government has started necessary preparations to set up Live Enrollment Centers (LEC) in various 68 districts and 32 diplomatic missions abroad.

Department of Passports (DoP) can download the passport application forms along with the photos of the applicants directly in Kathmandu once the LECs are set up.
Under the existing practice, passport applications are first collected at various district administration offices and missions abroad and then they are sent to the DoP for further processing.

While it takes three months in minimum to get passport if a person has applied from diplomatic missions abroad and at least one month if applied from the district administration office concerned, due to the delay in reaching applications to the DoP. Officials believe that service seekers may receive the passports in half the time once the LECs are set up.

The DOP, which works under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), is the central government body entrusted with the issue of passports. “Preparations are under way to set up live enrollment centers to provide passports to service seekers without unnecessary hassles and displace hand-written passports as soon as possible,” said MoFA Spokesperson Arjun Bahadur Thapa.

Addressing a regular press briefing at MoFA on Friday, Thapa said feasibility study including technical aspects involved in setting up the LECs have already been completed. “We have decided to set up live enrollment centers in various 68 districts and 32 diplomatic missions of Nepal abroad. We have sought necessary budget from the Ministry of Finance to execute the plan,” he said.

It is estimated that it will cost at least Rs 1 billion to execute the ambitious plan.

Thapa said they are mulling to make an arrangement for the applicants from the remaining seven districts to apply for passports from the neighboring districts. "Since it costs a huge amount of money to set up such a facility, we have decided not to set up live enrolment centers in seven districts keeping in view the low turnout of passport applicants," Thapa further said.

Nepal currently has embassies in various 27 countries, two permanent missions and three consul general offices. The government plan to set up live enrollment centers does not include soon-to-be established embassies in Oman and Bahrain and consul general office in Guangzhou.

The government decision comes in the wake of fast-approaching International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) deadline to replace all hand-written passports with Machine Readable Passports (MRPs) by November 24, 2015. “Currently, some 2.5 million hand-written passports are in use. All these passports will become invalid on the same day after two years,” said Director at the DoP Rajendra Pandey.

Director Pandey said the urgency to make the passport delivery service quick and effective was felt as the ICAO deadline is approaching. “We need to have a whole new system that is effective and can deliver passports faster than it is today to address the possible problems,” he further said. “We, therefore, are planning to set up live enrollment centers in various places in partnership with France-based Oberthur Technogies.”

Nepal started issuing MRPs on December 26, 2010 -- nine months after the original deadline of April 10, 2010 set by ICAO for starting to issue MRPs. Officials at DoP said over 800,000 MRPs have already been issued so far.

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