Crackdown on passport crimes

  • Department proposes three-year jail term and huge fines for recruiting agents who retain jobseekers’ passports
- Post Report, Kathmandu

May 4, 2018-

Misuse, forgery and foreign employment agencies illegally retaining jobseekers’ passports will send violators to up to three years in prison besides a huge fine, the Department of Passport’s new rules propose.

According to the new proposal, if anyone takes possession of any person’s passport and refuses to return it, that person would face prison term of one to three years and pay a fine between Rs 2 to 5 lakhs for this violation.

The severity of both punishments shall apply according to the nature of each individual case, the new proposal says.

Nepal’s 50-year-old passport act does not stipulate punishment for misuse, employment agencies or individuals illegally taking possession of any person’s valid passport.

The illegal act of retaining passports of citizens seeking foreign employment has increased recently. We receive hundreds of complaints every month. Most of them are cases of recruiting agencies or individual agents holding passports of jobseekers, a senior DoP official said.

To discourage such practices and illegal possession of passport by others, we proposed stringent punishments in the new act, the official added.

The department has drafted and submitted the proposed new rules to the Ministry of Law and Justice for its approval ahead of passing it in the parliament.

In the old provision, according to the Article no 5 of the Passport Act, people who obtain new passport by submitting fake documents or if any one possesses other person’s passport illegally or misuse passport for any other reason would serve prison term of one year or will pay Rs 500 fine. The new proposal increases the prison terms and fine. The department’s stringent punishment follows the increase in the number of passport crimes.

According to the old rules, the scope of punishment for a person who obtained passport by submitting fake documents, or citizenship through forgery or any other kind of misuse like applying for passport in other person’s name and address was not stringent. It was only six months to one-year prison term and Rs 50,000 to one lakh fine, or both.

Hundreds of people have been sent to prison for such crimes. However, the punishment and fine were too less with many legal loopholes. We want to change the old rules that hardly deter people from committing passport crimes. The proposed new rules are stringent, the official said.

The new rules also propose two kinds of passports in Nepal besides the present diplomatic, official, ordinary and travel documents.

Addressing the grievances of Nepalis working abroad, particularly those employed by commercial shipping companies like marine engineers, technical staff, ship crew and deck hands, the government will issue new “seamen passport”. Once seamen passport are issued, professionals from maritime sector will register their identity in ‘Sea Service Book’ as per the information provided by their passport that would be different from ordinary passport.

Similarly, to ease the process of visa for helpers, office assistants, cook, driver of Nepali diplomats serving in foreign countries, the DoP is mulling a different type of passport.

 Nepali diplomats often face difficulties in obtaining visas for their helpers and assistants so that they can travel abroad with them.

To make it easy for diplomats we have proposed for “service passport” with different colour so that obtaining visa for their personal staff would be smooth, the department official said.

 The new act also proposes digital archiving of passport holders data. It will remain secure at DoP. Over six million citizens have received the new machine-readable passports issued from 2010 onwards. The department has securely archived their data.

Published: 04-05-2018 07:13

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