My passport office visit was required for renewal of my passport, so that I could attend the Singapore marathon. I had registered online and got a date allotted to me one month after. On my allotted date I was advised by some friends to hire a broker/tout who would ensure that I would not have to wait in a long queue (and would need to reach the office half an hour before start) and complete the exercise in under an hour. Whereas some others told me that it was pointless to use a tout, as they are not really allowed to do anything inside the passport office and the only thing they do for you is wait for you and keep a place for you in the queue, and you have to do the rest on your own. I chose the latter, I reached the passport office at 7.30am and had to wait till 10.00am for the counters to open.
Now coming the interesting bit, when I joined the queue at 7.30am I was about 40th in the queue, but by around 8.30am I realised that I was 70th in the queue. I soon realised that many of the people standing in front of me where touts and they where representing their clients, and each of them was fixing about 5 people in the queue. I decided to protest against such moves and soon found like minded fellow queue mates who were equally upset with this and to our credit we managed to put a stop to this. We thought that we had solved the problem, but it was only after we went inside the office after 10am, we noticed that at regular intervals, there were a couple of touts who would come and drop a couple of applications at some of the 12 counters for clearance.
The concerned officer at the counter would then take up these applications in between the applications submitted by people who had come there in a legitimate manner. But the bigger issue was that these applications were not supported by any original documentation and the concerned person was not present in person. (these measures are important so that passports are not allotted to people who are applying for them with an intent to misuse them). I might be wrong in my observation and these applications might have had a valid reason for having come at the counter (out of the blue), but this is how it appeared to me!
My recommendations to those of you who are visiting the passport office for renewal –
- There is no point in hiring the service of a tout, its just not worth it.
- Try and be there by 7.30 am.
- There is no need to come earlier than that and do not be worried if you are among the first 100 entrants, there are about 12-14 counters and many of them come for other issues like ECNR approvals, changes in passport (all of which have different counters in Hall 2)
- It will take you about a maximum of a couple of hours to complete the application scrutiny and submission process, if you reach by 7.30, it should not take you more than an hour after the counters open.
- The staff is very strict and sometimes very unreasonable, so even though you are required to bring only two supporting documents for proof of residence, please carry an additional 2 document options. Also carry some spare pictures, the person at the counter asked me to replace my pictures in the application, as he felt that the picture which I had pasted was not good enough (and guided me to a photostudio across the road, which ripped me off) In short, if your application has not been vetted/arranged by a tout or agent, there is a 50% change that they will find some imperfection in your application.
- Do remember to carry water, fruit and some sandwiches with you, plus some reading material, the wait can get very boring (touts are not the most interesting guys to chat with!!)