Passport renewal – Indian Embassy, Washington DC

I had my Indian passport renewed this week at the Indian Embassy, Washington DC. I had a little trouble finding or rather 'confirming' the information that I wanted. After visiting the embassy twice, I decided to write down the answers I found through the process.

A Little background -
My passport was expiring after the 10 year validity period in 2 months and I was traveling to India in a month.

The Hunt for information & the confusion
So I began my research with the Indian Embassy website. While it's a decent website with good amount of information, it's lacking in some areas. It provides incomplete and contradictory information. Here's an example from two different pages -

Passport can be issued within 1 to 3 working days in an emergency /tatkal scheme for which an additional emergency fee of US$ 90 will be charged apart from the normal processing fee of US$ 40 (for normal booklet of 36 pages) or US$ 50 (for Jumbo booklet of 60 pages). " - Link

and then

"A passport can be issued on the same day, if deposited at the Consular Counter by paying additional USD $90 subject to the satisfaction of the Consular Officer only. This service is not available for passport applications/ documents sent in mail." - Link

Actually both the statements are true, they just apply to different situations. But the website does not say that and it confused the hell out of me. Not that there's a whole lot of difference in the processing times but I would want to know if I am getting my passport the same day or do I have to come back. Mystery ehhh

Calling the embassy does not quite help. All you would remember from the dozen times you would call them is the Shehnai music which you would listen to after being on hold relentlessly and the fact that some one called 'Chanderpal' works at the embassy and he has his freaking voicemail box full!!

The Embassy does not suck

Contrary to the popular belief, the Indian embassy at Washington D.C. is not all that bad. I had heard some horror stories from a lot of people about the guys at the embassy being incompetent and the embassy being in dire straits. But I had a very nice and pleasant experience. I guess I was prepared for the worst. The staff was very polite and helpful. I would like to mention the Security Guard. I forgot his name but with his mustache, we can call him Nathulal jee 🙂 He was very helpful and answered a few of my questions while I was waiting for the embassy to open and so was the lady at the reception. I was in and out of the embassy in less than 10 minutes both the times. So nothing wrong with the embassy or the staff. They just don't believe in answering the phones, I guess!!

The Questions

I had the following questions which were unanswered even after reading through the fine lines on their website a dozen times. So here are the answers now -

1.Processing Time
They say the processing time is 4 to 7 working days.

2. Will my passport be issued the same day?
The passport can be issued on the same day only if the previous passport was issued in USA. If it was issued in India, it cannot be done the same day since the application must go to India for verification.

  1. Should I visit the embassy or should I just mail the application?
    It really depends on your situation and how much you are willing to spend. In my sister's case, we sent her application via USPS (with delivery notification) a few months back. We paid $40+$20 for the expedited delivery. It took 14 business days for it to come back even though the website says it takes about 4-7 working days. While that was acceptable in her case, I did not have the luxury and hence decided to drop off the application and pick it up a week later. I dropped the application on a Tuesday and picked it up the following Tuesday (My passport was originally issued in India)

You have the following options available -

Option A) Drop & Pick - If time is of essence and you cannot afford a delay, you are better off dropping the application at the embassy between 9:30 am and 12:30 pm mon-fri. You will get a receipt token which is more like a Diwali mela ticket than anything else. You will get a pickup date which it seems is usually 1 week from the day you drop off the application. You come back on or after the specified date and voila - it's ready. If you do this, it will cost you just the basic fee which is $40.

Option B) Drop & Mail - You can drop off the application at the embassy again between 9:30 am and 12:30 pm mon-fri. I am assuming you would get some kind of receipt. You can request that the passport be mailed back to you. You need to pay $20 in addition to the basic fee of $40 to exercise this option. Again this would take 3-7 business days excluding the time taken by the mail man.

Option C) Mail & Mail - You mail the application to the embassy addressed to -
Embassy of India
(Consular Wing)
2536 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington D.C. 20008

Make sure you send it through some kinda of priority mail with delivery confirmation. They say it takes 4 to 7 working days, excluding the time taken in mail to process the application. I did this for my sister and it took 14 working days. So I decided not to do the same for myself and opted for Option A. It's a little painful but it's worth it especially if you are like me and are renewing your passport which is expiring in a 2 months and are traveling to India in a few weeks. They send it back via USPS and it needs signature on delivery.

4. Can someone else collect the passport on my behalf?
Yes, you just need to hand over the all powerful token to your friend and it can be picked up by them.

5. When can I collect the passport?
Between 4:30 and 5:40 pm mon-fri

6. When can I submit the application?
Between 9:30 am and 12:30 pm

7. How do I get to the Indian Embassy in Washington DC?
I am listing the directions from Vienna, Northern VA. Please modify them according to your starting location.

  1. Metro - Orange line from Vienna towards New Carrolton
  2. Get off at Farragut West Metro station
  3. Bus - Walk up to the 17th st NW & I st, take the bus toward Friendship heights.
  4. Get off at NW Masachussets Ave & NW Belmont Road, the bus drops you right next to the Embassy of Oman with a tomb and a minaret that seems like an Islamic embassy (I could not locate the name) The Indian embassy is located right opposite to it. So cross the road and walk to your left. You would see a grey building with two elephants and the Ashoka pillar :). That's us!

8. How about Parking?
There's no parking around the embassy unless you work there and if you do, please tell me why you guys don't answer the phone!!

The one thing I noticed on my new passport, which is actually quite interesting is - They still write the particulars with a pen, that's right - no computers being used yet, the Indian Passports are still prone to errors and typos!! Thankfully, there weren't any errors on mine. So make sure you verify all the information before you put that baby away in to your travel bag.

Hope this helps. Any questions, please let me know and I will try and answer them. Good Luck and Jai Hind!!

You can download the passport renewal application form here or visit this page for more information

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