Monday, October 21, 2013

Renewing Passport through Consulate of Pakistan at NY

This post is mainly about MRP tracking system at NY consulate which gives away some of your information online. If you are not a privacy-concerned person, you can just hit a X button on the opened tab. =)

A few weeks back, I wanted to renew my passport from a Pakistani consulate. Based on my location, Houston consulate was the nearest one to me and ideally I should have gone there. But this consulate has only manual passport facility which means a new passport with stapled photograph of the passport owner and probably hand-written information on the passport. So I got my four passport size photographs ready and all other documents. But later I got to know from my friend that with the manual passport, one can get into some troubles for entering into a few European countries, however I never verified that information.

Since my current passport was machine readable passport (MRP), it didn't make any sense to me also to get an old-dated manual passport after having one MRP. Apart from Houston, other options I had were either LA or NY consulate. I chose the second one.

I along with my other friends reached at Pak consulate, NY at 8 AM on Friday. We sat on the stairs outside the consulate for nearly 40 minutes until one person came, said hello to us and went inside. It was awesome. We waited another 10 minutes until another fellow let us enter into the building. We were the first ones over there, so we didn't have to wait for anyone in front of us. We were told to wait in a room which upon entering gave us a real Pakistani feelings. It was like I had entered into a National Bank (NBP) office; kind of old furniture, dust on the glass of counter against which one officer was sitting there, and electric wire with a lot of tape stripes on it etc. 

After waiting for 15 to 20 minutes there, we were called up by the person at the counter. We submitted our money order checks and were again asked to wait there. After 10-15 minutes, we were asked to go into another room where someone will verify our finger prints, conduct a short interview and take pictures for new passport. There were three desktop computers and chairs in that room and I suppose, they were for three people but since it was 9:20 am, so only one nice person was going to handle all the things for us.

By the time we entered into that room, we were three persons waiting for the officer to start the process. This third person came up with his father who seemed a good friend of the officer and who was making sure that everything was good for his son. Officer called three of us one by one and verified our finger prints and conducted a short background interview. He moved to a third computer then and there was some problem with the digital camera and we thought that we might have to come on Monday now. After 10-15 minutes, officer took our photographs one by one and gave us a tracking number through which we could check our passport status by online MRP tracking system. It is a really nice thing actually.
We just followed the process and it took us around one hour and we were ready to leave the consulate. Also we submitted the self-addressed USPS envelopes for getting our passports back at home and had applied for urgent ones fearing that it might take much more time than expected even with the urgent passports.

Interesting thing I got to know later was that NY consulate sends passport applications back to Islamabad and passports are prepared over there. So Houston consulate needed only three computers, one digital camera, finger print scanner and one internet connection.
After a week, I tried to check if there is any update about my passport through MRP tracking system. That page looks like below;

I entered my number and status was not-ready yet.

From the figure, you can see that tracking number is an 11-digit number where first six digits are fixed for now. So my number was 801010*****. Since my friend also came with me, out of curiosity I thought to check his status also but I didn't have his tracking number. He showed up right after me, so I just added one into my own number and hit the Search button. Bang! I could check his status also. Now I added one more and got the third person's full name and passport category (urgent or normal etc.).

Both of us had applied for urgent passports which would normally take 2 weeks as per given information on the website but still I had some doubts. And now after knowing this thing, I thought if I can go forward, may be I can also go backward in my numbers and see the status of previous applicants and find out how much time it took them to get their passports. I entered a few numbers and got records for everyone. fun! With the checked ones, only one or two applicants had applied for urgent category and they had gotten their passports within 2-3 weeks which was okei with me.

Now I wanted to know how many numbers I can go backward and by hit and try, I got to know that "80101012065" was the first applicant whose information was available through MRP system. In fact, you will find the following information;

Submission Date  2010-01-04
Tracking ID  | 80101012065
Name.. | Khalid Mahmood
Category | Urgent
Delivery status| Delivered from Consulate
Delivery Date| 2011-01-01
Delivery Option | Sent by MailMail
Tracking ID is |NA

And if you have requested to receive your passport by mail, USPS tracking number will also be available here. Interesting, isn't it?

You might be wondering what a person can do with this information. I was able to figure out about my friend who lives a few states away from me that he received his passport at 1:15 PM on which day.

Knowing all this information, being a responsible person, I sent my first email to Pak consulate for which I got no response.



I sent another email. Though it was a little harsh and probably non-practical but I knew it was the thing to get any response from them.


I got response on the same day.


After reading this third email, you might get the reason for this whole post. I developed  a use-case for one tracking ID and sent them the following email.




 Response-2 (Pending and not-expected)

Anyway, my passport was ready after 10 days and was on the way through USPS. I was not at my place when USPS guy came to deliver the passport. They took it back to the main head office. Typically I ask them for free re-delivery but this time, I just went there and picked it up on very next day.