Passport Delays Plague Over 1,000 Nepalis in California Due to Travel Burden and High Costs

The absence of a Nepali embassy or consulate on the West Coast of the United States poses significant challenges for Nepalis seeking consular services such as passport renewal.

During an interview with Khasokhas Editor Deepak Pariyar, Rishi Punnakhar Dhakal, the Honorary Consul General for San Diego, California, shed light on the complexities of the issue. Dhakal revealed that a preliminary survey identified approximately 1,000 passport renewal applications needed.

He estimates that over 1,000 people have expired passports or passports expiring within months, unable to apply for renewal due to unavailable appointments, high travel costs, and the long distance to the Nepali embassy in Washington D.C. The embassy’s limited resources prevent it from offering mobile consular services in California.

Previously, mobile consular services were available on the West Coast, but the program was discontinued. This has caused significant inconvenience for elderly, sick, or disabled Nepalis, making travel to Washington D.C. difficult. The lack of consular services not only affects Nepali Californians but also impacts Nepali communities in Texas, Colorado, North Carolina, and other densely populated areas.

Dhakal expressed hope that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would acknowledge and address the problem.

He noted the staggering financial burden. It’s estimated that it would cost over $1.2 million for 1,000 Nepalis in California to travel to Washington D.C. for in-person enrollment and passport renewal.

Addressing the Needs

To address the immediate needs of the community, Dhakal and his team have been providing assistance with form filling and document preparation, especially for those facing emergency situations. Additionally, they offer guidance on alternative options, such as traveling to Nepal on a travel document for passport renewal, particularly for green card holders with expired passports.

For Nepalis residing in California, renewing a passport during travel to Nepal may, in some cases, be a faster and more convenient option compared to traveling to Washington D.C.

Long-Term Solutions

Regarding long-term solutions, Dhakal stressed the importance of additional resources, staff, and a plan to facilitate mobile consular services on the West Coast of the USA. He highlighted the broader impact of the issue, extending beyond California to other densely populated Nepali communities across the United States.

When questioned about the possibility of honorary consuls assuming additional roles in consular services, Dhakal expressed his readiness to serve in any capacity assigned by the government. However, he emphasized the need for official recognition and authority to fulfill such responsibilities effectively.