Indians who hold handwritten passports and 20-year passports with validity beyond November 24, 2015, should get their passports re-issued and obtain machine readable passports (MRP), the Indian embassy had said in a statement issued in December 2014.
This is in keeping with rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which has decided to do away with non-machine readable (handwritten) passports globally. Countries under the ICAO will not issue visas to persons holding passports that are handwritten or valid for 20 years.
Even passports valid beyond November 24, 2015, will not be accepted for visa. Technically, these passports, issued before 2001, will be worthless unless they are renewed.
How to check if a passport is machine readable ?
Machine readable passports have two lines of text as letters, numbers and chevrons (i.e. <<<) at the bottom of the personal information page, along with the bearer’s picture. See the image below :
The Indian government has been issuing machine readable passports since 2001.
What is a Non-MRP ?
Passports which do not have machine readable zone (see image above) are called non machine readable passports (Non-MRP).
Mostly they have details written by hand and photos pasted without lamination.
They were issued before 2001, and are being phased out in many countries.
The passports those were issued during mid-1990s with a validity of 20 years will also fall in the category of non-MRPs.
By the end of November 2014, it was estimated that there were about 286,000 handwritten Indian passports in circulation.
Why machine readable passports ?
Machine readable passports unify the passport verification process worldwide. This is important to make sure the document has been issued by a legitimate authority and that it has not been altered.
Check the passport validity and number of pages
Many international travellers may not realise that having a passport with short validity remaining is sometimes not good enough to obtain visas or to enter certain foreign countries.
Indian citizens travelling on passports which may expire in less than six months, should renew their passports before any upcoming international travel.
It is especially important to check the passports needs of any minor who may be accompanying their parents as passports for minors have a shorter validity period (five years) than passports for adults (10 years).
Moreover, some countries do not accept passports which may have fewer than two pages remaining.
UPDATE : Even if you have a machine-readable passport, please make sure the expiry date is printed and not endorsed by hand. (Read more)
How to upgrade / renew Indian passport ?
The process for upgrade is the same as passport renewal. The applicant has to produce the passport to provide details, and can opt for either the normal or tatkal method.