100,000 Passports to come in Sept as demand continues

The Department of Regional Cooperation and the Department of Protocol under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade (MoFAET) are in talks with its German counterparts with regard to the new consignment of 100,000 passports expected to arrive by September.

The Officiating Chief of Protocol, Ugen Chozom, said in March 2023 they received 50,000 passports. A minimum of 200 passports per day were printed and supplied to the people who applied for the passports.

“During that time, those individuals who were going to Australia and Canada triggered the rush in the passport supply, and we had to print and supply a minimum of 200 passports per day,” she said.

She mentioned that most individuals prefer to apply for the passport online, and after a ‘pickup of the passport’ notification is sent out, people can simply come to pick it up.

“The applicants are given a very good service as within 10 days from the registration, they are issued the passports, and those with emergency cases are issued the passports within 2-3 days, depending on the severity of the cases. Now, we are comfortable as applicants are much lesser but still about 100 or so in a day,” she added.

She said that with regard to passports, the ministry has to follow the International Civil Aviation Authority rules and regulation.

Even the German counterparts are having some global shortage due to supply chain disruption, which has led to an increased demand for certain supplies, and threats related to security. This has led to the delay in the arrival of passports, but the Officiating Chief of Protocol mentioned that the department is comfortable, for now, and as such, no shortage has occurred.

She added, “Unless suddenly 1000s want to go and they need passports then we might have problem, but for the time being, we do not have any issues related to the shortage, and we are printing and supplying a minimum 100 passports per day.”

The ministry plans to collaborate and issue digital or e-Passports in the future, but nothing is confirmed as yet, she said.

“Some countries even have issued e-Passport to its citizens. Now, with the country adopting National Digital Identity (NDI), the department is looking at how the technical part will work in support with the e-Passport system. Still, it is very expensive.”

She said the recent news on the shortage of Bhutanese passports is not in the case of Bhutan, and clarified, “Currently, we are not having any issues related to the passport shortage, but the Bhutanese Embassy in Canberra had some shortage, and we have sent them 150 passports. With the growing population of Bhutanese in the foreign country, they face issues related to validity.”

“The thing with passport is that it has validity, where your passport should have a minimum validity period of six months at the time of travel. So, people prefer to change it before the expiry, and there are also cases of losing passports, where passports are issued. That’s why already many Bhutanese are there in Australia and some of them prefer to renew it before the expiration, and some apply for new passports, so they must have had the shortage,” she added.

Further, she mentioned that there are individuals who request for passports in emergency cases. Looking at the severity of cases, with all the formalities required for the passports met, special recommendation are made and passports are then issued.

The issue of passports is centralized at MoFAET, Thimphu. However, the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Canberra issues passports to the Bhutanese living in Australia and New Zealand. For those Bhutanese living in countries other than these two countries, they have to authorize a family member or friend to apply on their behalf at the passport division, Thimphu.

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