Rumours that the govt. will stop issuing passport is untrue: MOFA
If the number of new passports being issued is any indication, thousands of Bhutanese are leaving the country.
The Passport Division under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is overwhelmed with people even with an online application service. Chief of the Passport Division, Tshewang Dorji T said the division issued 7,124 new passports in the last two months, June and July. This month, until August 17, 2,500 new passports were issued.
“It is mid-August and if the trend continues, the division will have issued about 5,000 passports this month,” he said, adding that going by the trend, people applying for passports in the months towards the end of the year will increase with people going on pilgrimages.
Before the outbreak of Covid-19, the division issued about 13,000 passports in a year but this year, in just five months since April, about 19,000 passports have been issued already, according to Tshewang Dorji T.
He said most of the people applying for passports are those who are planning to go abroad or who are ready to leave.
Efforts to clear Backlogs
Tshewang Dorji T said that the division has not been able to issue passports in time because of the huge number of applicants.
The division usually issued passports between one and two days, which became impossible today due to the high volume of applicants.
Tshewang Dorji T said that to encourage online applications, in July, the division started a system wherein those coming in person to submit applications would take seven days to get the passports and those who applied online got in one to two days.
“This system could not be continued due to the increasing volume.”
He said they have backlogs to clear that are actually leading to delay in issuance of passports as scheduled. The division is planning to work one of these weekends to clear all the backlogs and start from ground zero again. “We might have to increase the manpower and equipment if we fail to clear the backlogs.”
The division also attends to those who require passports to leave for emergencies such as medical treatment.
There are seven full time employees working throughout the day starting at 9am. The work goes on till 8pm and 9pm. Some office drivers are also helping laminate the passports since it does not require expertise, according to Tshewang Dorji T.
“We are putting in all the efforts we can but the number of applications keep increasing,” he said.
The division has three printing machines of which two are in operation and one is kept as a backup. In the last two weeks, about 200 passports were printed in a day.
Govt. will not stop issuing passport
Tshewang Dorji T said that the people are rushing for passports probably because of a rumour that the government is planning to stop issuing passports. “This is untrue and there are no such policy decisions.”
He said that the division would always facilitate issuance of the passports. “That is why we have not set a cap on the number of passports to be issued in a day and we would work to enhance the division’s capacity.”
The other reason is due to the news of some 30 people winning the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery to live and work in the United States of America during the pandemic. It was learned that some people are applying for passports to apply for the lottery.
The chief said that issuing passports on time was one of the G2C services that was least complained about. “People have now started complaining.”
“I have given my own number and email address to the public. I am responding to each of the enquiries round the clock.”