KATHMANDU, Dec 28: Amid concerns that all the hand-written passports would become invalid on the same day after three years, the Department of Passports (DoP) has begun the process to replace the existing hand-written passports with machine-readable passports (MRPs).
DoP has forwarded a proposal to this effect to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) as nearly 2.5 million hand-written passports will become invalid on November 24, 2015 as per the deadline set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Only MRPs will be valid for travel after the ICAO deadline expires.
Officials said DoP has asked MoFA to avail Rs 900 million for necessary infrastructure and software development to execute the plan to replace the hand-written passports. "We have sent a proposal to the ministry to replace the hand-written passports as soon as possible," said Acting Director of DoP Yadav Khanal.
Nepal started issuing MRPs on December 26, 2010 -- nine months after the original deadline set by ICAO to stop issuing hand-written passports. However, the government has not yet started the process of replacing the manual passports issued till then. The manual passports have a validity of 10 years.
DoP, which is the only government agency responsible for issuing MRPs, has issued some 750,000 MRPs so far. There are apprehensions as DoP has the capacity to produce a maximum of 2,500 passports a day.
Khanal said they are working to replace the manual passports with MRPs in a phase-wise manner. "We have planned to develop a permanent system not only for MRP distribution but also for e-passports to be introduced in the future," he said.
According to Khanal, the proposal aims at establishing at least 20 enrolment centers across the country in the first phase.
The government officials deputed in such enrolment centers will take pictures of the applicants and help fill up MRP application forms online, avoiding the current practice of bringing application forms to Kathmandu.