Following a facelift, the country’s busiest immigration office in Phuentsholing is now expected to provide faster and better services.

The tourist counters have been increased to 12 from just two, while the work permit counters are increased to 16 from four.

The immigration office has new facilities such as an air-conditioned waiting room with seating.

Home minister Dawa Gyaltshen inaugurated the revamped office on April 8. Addressing those present at the inauguration ceremony, Lyonpo said that it had been a challenge providing services with the increase in tourists visiting the country. He said the new office will address the challenges.

Besides providing necessary facilities, the home minister also pointed out that the office now has an adequate number of staff. There are more than 70 immigration officers under the Phuentsholing regional office which covers the Tanalung, Rinchending, and Lhamoizingkha areas.

Meanwhile, the work to improve the office was carried out by the immigration department at a cost of Nu 11 million.

Prior to 2008, the immigration office was located in the dungkhag office with just one counter. As the number of regional tourists and expatriate workers increased, it was then decided a new office was required. The current immigration office was initially a bus terminus.

Today, the Phuentsholing immigration office deals with between 800 to 900 people daily for work and tourist permits.

To make the service more effective, the immigration department’s director general Thinley Wangchuk also announced plans to introduce a token system for transparency and additional waiting sheds.

During the inauguration of the new office, many Indian business representatives from Phuentsholing and members of the Bhutan-India friendship association were also present.

Regional director Sangay Tenzing said that His Majesty The King had personally visited the office in 2016 when the restructuring and renovation works were going on.

“His Majesty The King had commanded to incorporate all required facilities so that the service takers do not suffer or face any problems,” he said.

With adequate service counters and manpower, Sangay Tenzing said the office would provide fast and better immigration services.

Meanwhile, the Tourism Council of Bhutan has also recently introduced an online permit system for regional tourists. Tourists would not require visiting the immigration office if they register and process heir permits online.

Phuentsholing is the country’s busiest entry point from where thousands of regional tourists, especially, Indians enter Bhutan every year. Over the years the number of regional tourists entering the country has increased significantly.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing