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… the much-awaited terminal will be inaugurated today by the Prime Minister

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Much has changed in Phuentsholing since the border gate closed on March 23, 2020 as a key measure to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. Phuentsholing is not the same anymore.

With only a few days left before the border gate opens on September 23, exactly after 30 months, the pedestrian terminal is one of the biggest changes Phuentsholing has.

The government has spent over Nu 183 million to construct this international standard terminal. It has all modern amenities and facilities that will provide travellers with a comfortable and pleasant experience. It is fully air-conditioned and there is a separate and dedicated space with lounge facilities, restrooms and clearance counters for tourists to make the entry seamless, convenient and efficient. There are also adequate immigration clearance counters in the general entry and exit halls of the terminal.




If it was the iconic Gol Building that once greeted visitors, it will now be the pedestrian terminal that will comfort them.

The Prime Minister, who is on a tour of the southern dzongkhag to inspect the preparedness of entry points, will inaugurate it today. He will also launch the “Border Management Entry/Exit system of the Immigration Department.”

Given that Phuentsholing is the most important land port in the country and a key hub of trade and commerce, the Director General (DG) with the Department of Immigration (DoI), Pema L Dorji said Phuentsholing sees substantial the movement of people and vehicles through the international border gate.




“This is a reflection of the flourishing trade and commerce, and strong people-to-people contact, which we welcome and value,” he said.

However, the unfettered and unregulated movement of a large number of people on a daily basis across an international border brings with it many challenges and implications, particularly from the security and border control perspective.

“In this regard, documenting, regulating and assessing the identity, document and intent of all those entering or exiting the country is imperative,” he said.

This is to enable them to maintain a record of people crossing the international border and also help address illicit cross-border activities.

 




Movement

Even as the pedestrian terminal was being constructed, people in Phuentsholing and from across the border have been speculating about the movement.

Officials said the terminal will document and regulate the entry and exit of all foreigners and Bhutanese as per the border management and border control norms and requirements.

All those crossing the international border will be required to complete immigration formalities, which will be facilitated through the pedestrian terminal. Bhutanese and foreigners have to bring the required identity documents when entering or exiting. This is applicable to all international border areas.

Indian nationals will be allowed to visit Phuentsholing after producing proof of identity (voter card or passport) and completing immigration formalities at the pedestrian terminal.




They can visit until Rinchending Lhakhang. SDF will be applicable beyond this and they will also have to obtain a permit from the regional immigration office.

Casual visitors who halt the night in Phuentsholing will be liable to pay SDF.

Indian-registered vehicles will also be allowed within the designated zone without any charges. However, if such vehicles cross the designated zone, they will be required to pay Nu 4,500 per day.

Given a large number of pedestrian traffic in Phuentsholing, a pre-registration system has been developed and rolled out to reduce processing time at the terminal. Everyone intending to pass through the pedestrian terminal is requested to pre-register on (https://bms.doi.gov.bt) to avail faster and seamless immigration clearance.




On successful registration, a QR code will be generated. The registered person is required to present the QR code at the immigration counter along with the required identity document. Pre-registration is one time and there is no need to register again.

Officials urge tourists from India who wish to visit Bhutan to process their travel online in advance so that immigration clearance at the port of entry is quicker. The online website will be launched on September 22.

The inter-dzongkhag travel via India in public and private vehicles will continue to be facilitated based on CPMS registration.

 




Day workers

As in the past, day workers will be permitted to work in Phuentsholing and other border towns without having to pay SDF. Employers must obtain work authorisation from the labour department to employ a day worker.

Entry movement will be facilitated from six am and it will remain until 11 pm. Day workers are not allowed to halt the night in Phuentsholing and employers must ensure this. Otherwise, both the employer and the day worker will be penalised as per immigration rules and regulations.

All foreign workers, including day workers, will be taken to the Workforce Management Center at Amochhu on arrival in the country. The Center has been set up by the labour department to provide end-to-end (one-stop) services to foreign workers. Services such as general health screening and drug testing, banking, sim cards, enrolment of biometrics, work permit and transportation to worksites from the centre without having to visit multiple agencies for work permit-related services will be done at the WMC.




The centre will also provide logistic facilities in case foreign workers are required to halt at night. This is expected to facilitate seamless services as well as reduce the cost of recruiting foreign workers.

Meanwhile, many people are expected to go across the border on September 23.

Pema L Dorji said they anticipate a large number of Bhutanese wanting to visit Jaigaon, which could result in long queues at immigration clearance counters at the terminal.

“However, we will do everything possible to provide quick and efficient clearance with minimal inconvenience to the public. We have developed an online pre-registration system and will also be launching a pre-registration app for android phone users. The pre-registration system will generate a QR code and once registered, immigration clearance using the QR code will be much quicker,” he said.




People are requested to pre-register at https://bms.doi.gov.bt. “It is our foremost endeavour and priority to provide the best possible service at the terminal and we look forward to receiving the support and cooperation of the general public,” he said. 

Phuentsholing residents, although sceptical before, are now realising the importance of the pedestrian terminal.

A businessman, Phub Tshering said the terminal will make the town safer and secure like never before.

“I have a strong feeling that the economy of our town will boom now,” he said.

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