Sunday, March 1, 2009

How Goans are fooled by "agents" of Portuguese passport

Goans all over the world, even if they are in Australia or Canada, or in the gulf are quite interested in making their Portuguese passport, portuguese passport for goans thanks to the enormous benefits that accrue simply by way of being a Portuguese citizen.

However in their bid to get it done, plenty of Goans have fallen prey to big touts who have promised the stars but delivered very few. Many Goans have spent lakhs of rupees on these dubious agents whose prime qualification it seems is merely the knowledge of the Portuguese language. So there is a beeline at their door and they have started a full fledged business out of this new found trade in the last couple of decades.With grandiose returns of course!

Like willing guinea pigs, Goans flock to these so-called agents under the presumption that their ticket to Portugal is in safe and quick hands. What a tragedy!These agents claim that they have lawyers in Portugal who can handle the cases efficiently and swiftly thereby luring Goans to shell out their hard earned money to these "facilitators'.

It is no secret that the Portuguese authorities and the Consulate in Goa detest these agents and openly advise people to approach the consulate office directly. However the beelines for the agents continue as if they have the great mantra.

So what do these agents do? First up, they tell you to do all the documentation yourself. you need to go out there and get all the documents required on your own. The agents never do it for you. (If they do, they will charge you another hefty fee for that.) So notarising, collectors attestation and that of the home department is all your job dear. Before your documentation is ready they will send a letter to the Consulate in your name and address, seeking an appointment.This should keep you afloat for around a year or two.

Every time you call them enquiring about what has happened they reply that the process is on. To the more curious enquiry, their response will be that without the appointment from the Consulate they can do nothing for you. They cannot afford to ask the consulate for an appointment on your behalf. Honestly they have hundreds and thousands of cases and so even if they have some clout in the consulate, they wont be heard.

There is another interesting problem here. Since around 5 years ago, the Portuguese consulate has been asking Goans to furnish a document of the Portuguese era, the type of which is explained here. Without this document your Portuguese passport process is considered unworthy of even being considered.

However these "agents" claim that they can "manage" this document situation. I find that an alarming statement which is either a big lie or a fraud cooking in their mind. It seems to be a case of when we reach the river we will see how to cross it. But by the time you reach the river and without the means of crossing it( the Portuguese original document) you will already be a poor man. Couldn't you have been advised properly in advance? But no they won't, lest they lose your business. And if they resort to any forgery in organising that document in their overzealous methods, then you are the one who is bound to be in trouble.

Going back to the process,  you need to pray that the appointment letter comes from the consulate. When it comes, this "agent" will tell you to go to prepare your documents and check them , prepare some "power of attorney" in the name of his supposed lawyer in Portugal and then ask you to go to the consulate and present your papers. Once presented, you now have to go back to your routine of whatever you were doing before the thought of the Portuguese passport came to your mind. Because it is going to take whatever time the normal process takes. The agent has done his first job ( actually what has he done?) .

His guy, the lawyer in Portugal has hundreds of processes to look after. He cannot look at one of them, leave alone the thousands. If you try enquiring with your agent about the process status, he has to refer to a big encyclopedia of names and process numbers of people who have entrusted their passport processes to him and then  reply to you. The normal reply is " you will hear from Portugal soon". It is almost recorded on his lips, ready for delivery.

Next is the identification parade where you need to go and identify yourself in the consulate. Some have been lucky to get an appointment to do this in one year after presenting their papers through the agent. Some in 3 years through their agent. Others have had to wait longer with their agent. There is no order whatsoever followed by the Portuguese authorities. Sometimes I feel that their system is much like what our civil registrar offices here in Goa are doing. So what is the role of the agent here? Nil is the answer.

After the identification is complete, you need to wait for your "Assento do Nascimento" ( certificate of birth). When it comes after a year or two, your process of birth registration( which is the major hurdle) is complete.

The next thing is to do the Bilhete de Identidade ( identity card) and then register your marriage( for which you have to apply for another appointment) if you are married, for the sake of your children who then become eligible to claim Portuguese nationality. All this running will have to be done by yourself by going to the Portuguese consulate. Your agent will only sit and do some translation and typing for you in that much sought after "Portuguese" language.

For this "nothing done by the agent" job you will have to cough up anywhere between a lakh or two depending on the type of agent you landed with. Some have been lucky to escape with less and some have paid even 3-4 lakhs for this miserable piece of useless advice and typing skills. Everything else is done by you. Not the agent.The process went as normal.Nothing was actually done to expedite it. Yet you paid for nothing in reality.

Some of these agents are blacklisted in the consulate and your process going through their blessings could be doomed from the start.

It is very important to note that nowadays, in the last one year,  the process for the Portuguese passport is relatively quicker. It takes around a year or two for the entire process to complete which has previously taken over 7 - 8 years. And the agents have nothing to do with the new speed of the process. It is some expediency shown by the Portuguese authorities.

Having said all of the above, there do exist a couple of credible intermediaries who do expedite the process with the help of a genuine lawyer in Portugal who does follow up on the process status. But he or she often is too busy the moment the business increases and you process loins the normal queue.

So Do it yourself is the best answer to this simple exercise. In a bid to help fellow Goans to get some ideas in claiming your Portuguese passport without the role of an agent, I shall post the tentative procedure next time.

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