An Indian Passport is an official international travel document issued by the Ministry of External Affairs of the Indian government to Indian citizens. The consular, passport, and visa division under the ministry issues the passport that serves as proof of Indian citizenship.
An Indian passport certifies that the bearer is an Indian citizen by birth or naturalization. He or she can also receive consular services from Indian consulates and embassies while on international travel. The documents also have the name, date of birth, and photograph of the traveler along with other necessary identification details. The Indian passport gives the holders rights like visa-free entry to some countries. And in some other nations, they are eligible for a visa on arrival.
Also, if they are in need of legal, financial, medical, or other assistance when in a foreign country, they can approach the Indian embassy in that country. Officials, there will be happy to help them out. Indians can also get the Turkey eVisa if they plan on visiting the country for tourism.
The Ministry of External Affairs of the country issues Indian passports through a network of over 500 passport offices – known as Passport Seva Kendra— located across the country and close to 200 Indian embassies and consulates around the world.
The country ranks third in the world in the number of passport issuance only after China and the US.
At present, the Indian government issues passports in three different colors. Some of these passports are issued to people who are entitled to certain privileges during international travel and their stay overseas. The latest version of the Indian passport has the name of the country written in Hindi and English and also, the state emblem of India.
The standard passport contains 36 pages and frequent travelers can opt for a passport with 60 pages. Read on to find out the types of passports that citizens of India can use.
The regular passport. The navy-blue passport is issued to regular Indian citizens. The color blue is identified as a recurring motif in Indian culture and religion. The Ashok Chakra in the Indian flag is blue so is the color of the sky and ocean and the Hindu god Lord Krisha.
The blue passport helps immigration officials in foreign airports distinguish between an Indian government official and a common citizen. This passport can be used for foreign trips – both leisure and business. A majority of Indian nationals hold this passport.
The official passport. Out of all the passports issued by the Indian government, this is considered to be the most powerful one. They feature a white cover and are issued to officials and people who travel for official assignments on behalf of the Indian government.
High-ranking officials of the Indian armed forces and others are eligible for the white passport. The white color makes it easier for customs and immigration officials to identify the bearer as a government representative and accord due treatment. It is categorized as a Type-S passport wherein S stands for service.
The diplomatic passport. This maroon-colored passport is issued to people holding diplomatic statuses such as high-profile Indian civil servants, members of the Indian parliament, and ministers. They can use this passport while on official duty abroad.
They can get distinctive treatment at international airports and also receive several privileges including customs and immigration exemptions. In some countries, they can enter and stay without a visa.
Apart from these, the Indian government recently made it mandatory for citizens coming under ECR to have an orange stamp on their passports. The government said that the step is to safeguard uneducated Indian citizens working in foreign countries from exploitation.
Indian citizens who have not studied beyond Class 10 are eligible for the orange passport. A special immigration criterion is followed for ECR card holders.
Who is in the ECR category? The ECR category is applicable to the unskilled labor force who seek employment in countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and other gulf nations. They need to submit additional documents and get an emigration clearance certificate to apply for a work visa.
To get an Indian passport, one needs to register through the government portal and schedule an appointment. People cannot visit the passport offices without registering in the portal and paying a small processing fee.
Only in medical emergencies and citizens in pre-approved categories can visit passport offices without an appointment. If an applicant does not visit the passport office within 90 days, he or she has to resubmit the application form. The Indian government currently processes all passport applications online. To renew a passport or to apply for a new one, citizens will have to go via the official portal.
For applicants who need to travel abroad urgently, the government has introduced Tatkaal passports. They are basically short-validity passports and will be delivered within days. A Tatkaal application ensures speedier verification and processing. The scheme is available mostly for ordinary passports.
It is mandatory for all applicants to physically visit the passport office after submitting their application form online. They have to submit all the original documents. Biometric details like thumb impressions will be taken during the visit.
To promote security, the Indian government has recently introduced e-passports or biometric passports for Indian citizens. The e-passport will have an electronic chip with the personal details and nationality of the holder.
At present, the government has restricted this scheme only to diplomatic and official passports. They will have an internationally-recognized microchip logo on the front cover.
The Indian passport is not as powerful as some others. The Henley Passport Index now places the country in the 83rd position. Indian passport holders can now enter 60 countries without a visa. However, travelers with official as well as diplomatic passports can enter visa-free to more countries.
The validity of an Indian passport is 10 years. For minors, the validity is restricted for five years until they reach the age of 18. Citizens need to renew their passports either before the expiry date or after it. They need to apply through the government website with the original passport and other documents.
Based on the type (regular/official) of the passport that is being renewed and the age of the applicant (minor/ adult) the documents would differ. The website gives a detailed list.
Indian citizens who lose their passports have to report to the nearest police station or passport office. If they lose it while in a foreign country, they have to approach the Indian mission in the country which will generally issue an emergency certificate to return to India after verification. They can apply for the re-issue of the passport. For that, they need to approach the passport office with the correct documents.