Kathmandu, November 16

The government is planning to issue temporary passports with six to nine months’ validity in case any Nepali living abroad cannot acquire a new Machine Readable Passport by November 24, a deadline for converting all ordinary passports to smart ones.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation, a UN specialised agency which frames the policy of international aviation regime, has set November 24 as cut-off date to replace all hand-written passports for its over 190 member-states, including Nepal.

Director General of Department of Passport Lok Bahadur Thapa expects a few thousand documents to still not be replaced even after November 24. In such a case, the government has planned the issue temporary passports with very limited validity, as an option, in order to facilitate Nepalis to travel back home from abroad.

The DOP has time and again cautioned that international travel of Nepali citizens would be affected if they failed to convert their ordinary passports into MRPs by the date set by ICAO.

Thapa told The Himalayan Times that the government has also requested various countries — mainly Gulf countries and Malaysia where the concentration of Nepali migrants is high, to allow Nepalis to return home.

“If our people are living in a country from where direct flight to Nepal is possible, we have requested these countries through our embassies, to permit them to return home even on the old hand-written passports after the ICAO deadline,” Thapa added. As a third option, Nepal has planned to issue a one-way travel document to enable Nepalis to return home in case they become “illegal” due to failure to acquire passports within the set deadline.

The Nepali side had also presented these aforementioned clauses regarding how it would arrange the foreign travels of those Nepalis who failed to acquire MRPs within the deadline during an ICAO symposium in Canada last month.

According to Director General Thapa, ICAO has also taken Nepal’s concerns seriously and said there would be no difficulty in applying these three options.

There is no exact figure how many ordinary passports still need to be replaced after November 24. But DPO officials claim that around 25,000 to 50,000 hand-written passports would need to be changed.

When MRP service was launched in December 2010, it was estimated that around two million ordinary passports were issued till then. According to DoP’s official figure, at least 1.7 million passports have already been converted into MRPs.

The government had launched awareness campaign in various countries, mainly in the Gulf states and Malaysia regarding timely replacement of the old document earlier this year.

Meanwhile, DoP has planned to officially launch the live online application process for MRPs from next week.

Director General Thapa informed that the online application service (also known as live enrollment application process) will start from DoP headquarters at Narayanhiti, Kathmandu.