How the new Online Passport Application system works

Jun 05 2023.

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As a response to reports of brokers disrupting the passport issuance process, the Immigration and Emigration Department will launch a new online passport system for the convenience of the public. The main objective of this system is to save time that the public should otherwise have to spend languishing in long queues to obtain their passport. However, the manual system and one-day service too are available for those who opt to obtain their passport, this way.  

Speaking to the Daily Mirror Life, Indika Herath, Controller – IT at the Department of Immigration and Emigration explained how the new process works while responding to several concerns raised.
Excerpts :

Q how does the new online application system work?
Once an applicant clicks on the ‘Apply for Passport’ option in the website they will receive a One Time Password (OTP) once they register using their mobile number. Then they can log in to the system using the OTP. Thereafter they have to answer a set of questions so that we know the applicant’s situation. The next step is to upload the necessary documents. These include the ID copy, a copy of the birth certificate etc., The documents are received by the back end of the Department. In terms of photos, there are around 1000 studios registered with the Immigration and Emigration Department. If the applicant is someone who has already obtained a passport-size photo, he or she can send us the photo reference slip along with the rest of the documents. The office receives all documents online.

Q Could you explain the new fingerprint system?
So far we have chosen 50 sub-offices of the Department of Registration of Persons in respective Divisional Secretariats. These Divisional Secretariats were chosen after analyzing the addresses of applicants. There are around two to three Divisional Secretariats per district. The fingerprints are obtained via these sub-offices. We have provided them with the devices and the integration part is being completed. Once the applicant fills out the form and documents are being scanned he or she has the option to select the respective Divisional Secretariat. We have allocated the time slots as well. Therefore only 15 people can visit one Divisional Secretariat on a given day. This is because we do not have an estimate about the crowd and these officials are doing us a service while they have the usual work at the ID offices. The applicant can select a convenient time slot. In case if there are no time slots available he or she will have to wait till the next day. 

Q What about people who don’t have these facilities?
The manual system remains as it is. But if someone has a smartphone they can login to the system and even scan the documents via their phones. Apart from that, the studios only take the photo but when the appointment system was in place the studios placed appointments for people as well. The documents get uploaded the same way it gets uploaded to the web. We are in discussion with studios and we hope that they will facilitate this process. Apart from taking the photo, they can get an additional income if this service can also be provided. The Divisional Secretariat would only be obtaining the fingerprints of applicants and if the applicants don’t have access to studios, they have the option of taking the photos from the Divisional Secretariat as well. For this, we have invested in new cameras and software as per the request of the Minister. 

Q How long would it take for an applicant to receive the passport with the new system in place?
After providing the fingerprint it takes around three days to process the documents. The documents and fingerprint need to be verified from the back-end and after three days, the passport will be couriered to the applicant. We have selected SL Post as the courier service and they will deliver the passport to applicants in any corner of the island. The applicant is being charged an additional Rs. 200 if they select the courier service. 

Q What happens in case a passport is lost?
The passports won’t be lost or misplaced because there’s a tracking system in place. The applicant is updated via a text message from the beginning of the process until the passport is couriered to their doorstep. Once issued to the courier, the applicant will be provided with a URL to track the driver. Thereafter they can log in to the SL Post website and check the steps to get the passport delivered to the respective address. In case if a passport is misplaced the SL Post will have to bear the cost of the documentation process and they have agreed to it. They have also put forth a proposal requesting an insurance scheme for lost/misplaced passports. It is most likely to be approved. 

Q Is the one-day service also available?
Yes. If someone needs a passport urgently they can visit the office and obtain their passport. 

Q When will the new service be available to the public? 
This initiative will be launched anywhere between June 1-15 as the Minister has a plan to relaunch this system under the auspices of the President. 

Q Will there be any change to the charges?
The charges are being determined by the Treasury. We have requested the Treasury to provide an in-between charge for the one-day service but since there is no response it remains at Rs. 20,000. The charge for the normal process is Rs. 5000, either if it is being done online or manually. If they request a courier service an additional Rs. 200 will be charged. But if there’s no hurry the passport will be sent via registered post. Online payments can be done provided that an applicant has a credit or a debit card. If not the applicant can visit a Bank of Ceylon branch and make the payment. For this we issue a receipt if the documentation process is being done online. They can submit this receipt to the bank and make the payment.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamanthi Wickramasinghe

A psychology graduate who eventually became a journalist to be a voice for unheard voices. A proud Sri Lankan - Thalassophile - Travel fan - Nature lover - Chocoholic - Extraordinarily loud - Frequent laughaholic. Follow me on Instagram - @kamzylifeTM or FB – Kamanthi Wickramasinghe


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