My experience at the Indian Consulate at NY City
Every time I read about experiences at the Indian Consulate in US, all I see are stories about horrible experiences people had at consulate. Every body complaints about the inefficiency, non-friendliness and bureaucratic nature of staff.
In the past few months I had to contact Indian consulate three times for various reasons. Frankly speaking all my experiences were very nice.
First I contacted consulate to obtain PIO card for my son. I mailed in all documents as per the website. (It is clearly mentioned in website that when you mail in you need to send only notarized copy of originals. I had to tell this because many people complain about the feel of insecurity in sending in original passport of the child). Within a weeks time, I got the PIO card. No Problem.
Second I contacted for a passport renewal. Again, I mailed in all the documents. After around five weeks, I started getting concerned, but since they have mentioned to wait for six weeks in the site, I did. After 5 weeks, the new passport and the old passport arrived, in tact. No problem
Third, I had to get few documents attested. I thought I will go in person and get it attested from the consulate. I reached the consular office at NY by around 10:00 AM. The security guard checked my documents and asked me to stand in the queue for a specific window. Had to wait in line for aprox 45 mins (I did not expect to walk right in and served without the need to wait in queue). But once I reached the counter, I handed over the documents and I was all set.
Since, I was personally there, and I had read a lot about the bad experiences, and since I did not feel anything abnormally wrong, out of curiosity I thought I will wait for any bad experience to happen for anybody, to see whats going on.
And voila, I heard some kind of arguments at one window. This is what was happening.
One lady wanted to travel to India the next day and she had an expired passport. She has come to get her passport renewed and she want it immediately. The staff is telling her that she will get the passport the same day, but she has to wait till 4:30 PM to get that. The lady is not ready to accept that. She just kept on arguing about how important it is for her to return home and doing the rest of packing and blah blah blah.. shouting and cribbing. I asked myself, is this a bad experience to the lady who is arguing or the staff who is taking care of her? In the website it is clearly mentioned that the submision of the documents happens between 9:30 AM and 12:30 AM and the documents can be collected if ready, by 4:30 PM. And that is a process. I want to know which consulate will issue a new passport in matter of minutes? No one. If the consulate can give a new passport in the same day, I think that itself is good efficiency.
To everyone who has bucket loads of complaints about the consular services, I have only one thing to say. Dont expect to be treated like a king, even if it is your consulate, rules are rules and process is process. We need to follow that. Do your part, be proactive. For any person away from their home country, passport is an important document. Why do you let it expire and wait till it is time for you to travel to renew your passport? And expect consulate will issue a passport in minutes? And worst, complain about consulate that they did not help her. Please stop complaining unnecessarily. Do your documentations carefully and neat. You did it when you went to a foreign consulate, why not do it to your own consulate too?
And, how many consulates have mail-in service, which is really great for people staying far away.
I think few below tips might help you in your future visits/correspondence
- Please READ the consular website carefully. They have lot of information than you think.
- If you are going in person, please carry all the required documents and few extra copies and the originals with you. All the required documents are clearly mentioned in the website.
- If you are mailing in documents, please have all the documents clearly tagged. Take a prinout of the consulate webpage which mentions the list of documents and just mark the tag name of attachment clearly. Put it in a nice neat folder and send it with tracking. Sending documents with tracking helps a lot for tracking down documents in case of misplacement.
- Please reach the office a bit early, there are so many people who requires the service and queue can be quite long
- Sites like immihelp.com has lots of pages which describe in detail each consular service, the documents required and additional details. Please read them carefully and do your homework.
- If your service needs photographs, pleas make sure they satisfy the criteria specified
Few points for the consular general too,
- Please organize the information available on the web. Some things are confusing
- Please have a dedicated staff to answer phone calls and reply to emails. Thats will take care of lot of complaints
- The process at the office can be very well streamlined. There is a lot of scope for improvement. You can give tokens and eliminate the queues completely. (Even if you have tokens, trust me, it is not working that well). Also, while delivering document at 4:30, you can have the staff call out numbers and hand over the documents, which is faster than people standing in queue and staff spending 5 minutes to search and find out the document for that person.
- Please have staff who can talk and understand english very well