The highlight of this past weekend was completing Vaidehi’s OCI application.
As soon as her passport arrived, I started working on it. The application process could’ve been so much easier, but turned out to be unnecessarily difficult.
First of all, The information is scattered across two different websites.
- VFS - The visa and technology outsourcing company providing services to the Government of India
- OCI portal of Government of India.
In more than a couple of places, the instructions are confusing and even conflicting with one another. E.g. The background of the applicant’s photograph can either be white or light-colored depending on which source you are referring to.
When filling out these forms, there are typos and inconsistencies everywhere. E.g. My current country of residence is referred to as the USA, UNITED STATES and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in the same form.
There isn’t a tooltip or quick help available for some questions asked in a very bureaucratic language. E.g. What is the applicant’s ‘Relationship to the root of the Indian’? What does this question even mean? I had to google it to find an answer.
Getting an acceptable photograph of a 6-month-old baby is a matter of luck. I understand its not unique to the OCI application. But I was warned by a friend whose application was rejected because he used the same photograph as the passport application. So I preferred to use a new photograph. I also needed a fingerprint of her left thumb. But when I looked more closely, I actually had to get the right thumbprint for a girl child. No matter how many times I tried, Vaidehi’s thumbprints were never identical. The uploaded digital image and the thumbprint on the printed form looked very different.
Notarizing this whole thing was another minor challenge. I wasn’t sure how many forms to get notarized. The parental authorization form had clear instructions about notarizing. But the actual application form also needed notarization. The passport could be ‘self notarized’. I wasn’t sure if I could sign the copy of the passport on my daughter’s behalf or should I get her thumbprint on it.
Beyond the challenges with paperwork, the technology experience has a lot of friction. As a user it’s one application for me, but I have to register on two separate websites. Upload some documents on one website, and download the checklist and acknowledgement receipt from another. The OCI site looks straight from the 80s. Even after registration and getting a login id, I have to use some combination of a passport number, date of birth and application number to retrieve or update my data. This whole thing could be packaged in just one application for the end user.
It took me the whole 2 days to get this done. It was surprising because my previous experience with passport renewal was so much better..
After I dropped off the application package at FedEx, I felt a sense of achievement and relief. I hope this gets issued without any challenges and I won’t have to do it again for the next 20 years.