Indian Passport Renewal Experience at Houston

My Indian passport comes up for renewal in October 2014, and I did not want to start late on my documentation. Google bhai did not yield any satisfactory results. People had not understood the documents requirement, people were complaining about the processing company, complaints about the delay and so on. Luckily I did find a couple of good blogs that helped me a lot. So I decided to pen this one to supplement the ones that helped me a lot.
Blog 1: http://heresvivek.blogspot.com/2013/09/applying-for-indian-passport-at-bls.html

Blog 2: http://sudee4u.blogspot.com/2012/11/how-to-renew-indian-passport-in-usa.html

BLS Website http://passport.blsindia-usa.com/reissue10.php#docu

Indian government has outsourced the passport and Indian visa application processing to a company called BLS international. The BLS offices are located in the same cities as the Indian consulate and the first step in the whole process is to understand the jurdisction you fall under. The BLS documents requirements did send me for a toss here. Also the processing times are really different for Houston. The whole process can take up to 6 weeks for the Houston consulate.
1. Fill up the passport application form for NRI’s in the Indian government website. You can fill in the details and print the application, the consulate expects you to fill  in the remaining details manually. Ensure that you sign all the boxes and that your signature matches everywhere. Also the passport gets issued with the US address so fill in the details accordingly.
2. 3 Copies of the national identity verification forms, filled and with photos affixed (3 photos) . You can order prints for photos from Walmart for 7$. Other stores like CVS, Costco do take photographs and print them out for you. The photos do have to match the specification of 2X2 size. Better to take the photos with a white background. Walmart Photo website does allow you to upload photos for passport and check if it matches the specification.
3. Notarized copy of Proof of address. In Houston I used to get my documents notarized at the banks but a new rule in Texas prevents the Bank to notarize certain documents. Here are your options
UPS Store – Notary can notarize ID, passport and certificates.But they charge 6$ per signature.
Notary Public Officers – Only these guys can Notarize your I797, USCIS forms (10$ per signature)
Bank – Affidavits of Change in Signature (FREE)
4. Notarized copy of your Marriage Certificate for adding your wife’s name in the passport. No need to submit proof of valid visa for your wife.
5. Proof of Valid Visa – this one did give me sleepless nights. The BLS website says if your VISA has expired and/or I797 notice is pending then you need a affidavit of no status with the signature and photocopy of two green card holders with valid Indian passport. If you do have an approved I797 then you do not need this. DO REMEMBER TO take a copy of your approved I797 and I94 if you visa is expired and you are here in the USA on extension. These documents can only be notarized by a Notary Public.
6. Photos – 2 additional photos for your main application. You stick on on the first page, the other goes on the last page of your application. I did carry additional photographs but the BLS guys returned them all
7. Submit a Affidavit document for your appearance and Signature change with 1 photo. This is your safety check. You can get them notarized at the bank for free. The format is available in the BLS website documents section
8. if you submit the documents by mail then the BLS does not mark them as accepted and sent to consulate until a week at least. I did submit the documents in person, so could start tracking the application from day one itself.
9. The BLS Website allows you to track your passport application. Once it is submitted to the consulate it takes up to 6 weeks. The status stays on “Processing at Consulate General” until the document is actually received by BLS. So all calls you make to the BLS office will be given the same answer. Do not worry. If the consulate requires additional documents they do call you apparently. BLS provides the first round of checking and the consulate may ask for additional documents(rarely).
10. In about 30 days the BLS team will send you an email notifying the passport has been dispatched or ready for collection. They will give you the old passport and the new passport.
The process is quite simple if you know all the moving parts. Otherwise it is a hassle to get all documentation in order.
Hope the blog helps all.

P.S My passport application was processed in 30 days.

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