Exit west

June 9, 2024

Passport offices, IBCC centres crowded with work-abroad aspirants

Exit west


mir and Musadiq have always relied on their daily wage jobs to get by. However, it has been getting harder for them to earn enough lately. They have now decided to look for better opportunities abroad.

They obtained their job contracts from a Saudi company a month ago. However, they have been unable to travel to the Kingdom as they are yet to receive their passports.

“We are daily wage workers. We can no longer find adequate work. Hence we are moving abroad. We planned to move to Saudi Arabia a month ago, but our passports got delayed. Now we are trying to get the passports by submitting a bigger fee to get them in the ‘urgent category.’ Even the urgent passports now require almost a month,” Amir tells The News on Sunday.

Amir and Musadiq are not the only people queuing to move abroad. Across Pakistan, many people are experiencing a similar dilemma. Some applicants complained that the government was exploiting their situation by asking for higher fee for “fast-track” passports.

“I have applied to get my passport in the ‘urgent’ category. It takes a month. Now I have asked the staff if it is possible to expedite the process further. They tell me I have to pay an extra fee to convert it into a “fast-track” application,” says another applicant at the Peshawar passport directorate.

The country’s faltering economy has driven a lot of people to seek work elsewhere, resulting in a surge of applicants at the offices of the Passport Directorate, as well as the Inter-Board Coordination Commission and the Foreign Office. These offices are swarming with applicants desperate to expedite their requests for verification of documents before embarking on overseas journeys.

At the Foreign Office and the IBCC offices too, hundreds of applicants line up in sweltering summer heat, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in snaking queues that extend beyond the doors and anxiously wait for their turn.

Most of the applicants are educated young men seeking to get their academic certificates verified prior to leaving the country in pursuit of better opportunities elsewhere. The certification of educational records is a requirement for those wishing to move abroad for employment or further education.

One of the candidates at the Foreign Office in Peshawar says: “I had a night stay and my breakfast in a hotel in Peshawar city and reached here at around 8am. It is past noon now.”

He complains that for several months he has been stuck with the attestation, starting the process at the Inter-Board Coordination Commission for matric and intermediate documents, and then approaching the Higher Education Commission for the verification of college and university documents, before now finally getting stuck at the Foreign Office.

Talking to TNS, Abdul Rehman, an officer at the IBCC, says a larger number of educated youth are relocating overseas. He says the IBCC office is perennially overburdened with applications.

Another official at the Foreign Office in Peshawar says that they are doing their best to manage the large number of applications for attestation.

“We understand the urgency and the need of the applicants. We are committed to expediting the process. However, the volume of applications is high nowadays. Every day, we get hundreds of applications for the attestation of papers,” he says.

Siddique Akbar, in charge of the passports directorate in Peshawar, says that the department is trying to ensure timely issuance of passports. However, he says that the authorities face a shortage of paper used in the passports.

“We can print 10,000 to 12,000 passports a day. We are receiving double the number of applications. This is the reason behind the delayed delivery,” he says.

It merits mention here that the normal delivery of passport used to be one month after the application was made. The period has now been extended to four months. In the urgent category, a passport used to be delivered in five days. It is now delivered in a month. Yet another category, called “fast-track” has been created to 4-day delivery in lieu of a higher fee.

The writer, a journalist at The News International in Peshawar, holds a PhD in journalism. He tweets at @doctormshahid

Exit west