An estimated 200,000 Bangladeshis in the UAE have to convert their handwritten passports to Machine Readable Passports (MRPs) in the next five months, a top Bangladeshi diplomat has told Gulf News.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has set a deadline of November 24, 2015 for globally phasing out all passports that are not Machine Readable. From November 25, governments may deny visa or entry to any person travelling with a non-MRP.
“The Bangladeshi diplomatic missions in the UAE have issued around 550,000 MRPs since early 2011 and we estimate that around 200,000 people remain to apply for MRPs,” Mohammad Imran, Bangladeshi Ambassador to the UAE, said in an interview.
He said the number of Bangladeshis in the UAE is estimated to be between 700,000 and 800,000.
The envoy urged all Bangladeshis in the UAE and their employers to ensure that all of them get MRPs at the earliest, without waiting for the last minute “because it takes six to eight weeks to issue a new passport”.
A Bangladeshi MRP costs Dh125 for labourers and Dh405 for people in other jobs.
“Although both the embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai have the capacity to issue 800 passports a day, only around 500 applicants are coming in these days,” Imran said. The Bangladeshi Government has outsourced the passport services to a company named Iris, which has soft-launched its services at five locations in the UAE, he said. “Their services are being expanded. Once fully operational, Bangladeshis can apply for passport renewal more conveniently,” he said.
He cautioned that waiting for the last minute may cause problems for those holding handwritten passports. “They cannot renew their UAE visas without MRP.”
As Gulf News reported, handwritten passport holders had already started feeling the heat in the UAE much before the international deadline. The UAE stopped issuing new visas to Bangladeshis holding handwritten passports in 2013 although renewal of their existing visa was permitted. Newcomers from Bangladesh to the UAE must hold an MRP.
From September 2010, the UAE stopped issuing new visas to Pakistanis holding handwritten passports, although renewal of their existing visa was permitted.
It affects Pakistanis who travel to the UAE on visit or tourist visas and Pakistani expatriates already in the country who apply for a new visa after cancelling their existing visas to change jobs or sponsors.
The Pakistan Embassy had earlier said that most Pakistanis holding handwritten passports in the UAE had converted them to MRPs. The embassy was not available for comment on Tuesday.