Kathmandu, January 20

Handwritten passports are no longer valid, but even two months after the government decided to discontinue it in accordance with the deadline issued by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, thousands of Nepalis have yet to replace them with machine-readable ones.

The ICAO a UN specialised agency, which frames policies for all international aviation made all handwritten passports invalid since November 24, 2015.

As a member of ICAO, Nepal also banned people carrying handwritten passports from travelling abroad since November 24.

The government had then claimed that there were no more than 50,000 handwritten passports yet to be replaced.

But thousands of Nepalis, both living in the country and abroad, have still been approaching the Department of Passport to replace their old passports with machine-readable ones.

A data acquired from DoP shows that in December last year, a total of 111,675 people had applied for passports, of which 50,958 applications were for replacing the old document with machine-readable ones.

Of those who had applied for replacing their old document, 11,586 had applied directly from DoP Headquarters in Kathmandu, while 17,337 had applied from various districts of Nepal.

Interestingly, the largest number of applications were received from Nepalis living abroad. As many as 21,994 Nepalis currently living in various foreign countries had applied for Machine Readable Passport in December.

Applications for passport renewal has dropped slightly in January, but still the volume is quite considerable. Of the total 42,373 applications received in January, 15,453 were for replacing old passports with machine-readable ones.

“What this shows is that still a significant number of people are holding ordinary passports,” said Director General of DoP Lok Bahadur Thapa.

He added that the applications for passport renewal would decrease significantly in the days ahead.

He also informed that in case of emergency, Nepalis carrying handwritten passport abroad could still return home by acquiring a one-way travel document from Nepali embassies.

“We have got an ICAO nod to issue a one-way travel document to Nepali nationals still carrying ordinary passports in case of emergency,” he told The Himalayan Times. “But this is applicable only in exceptional situations.”