People are lined up outside of Kabob House in Hamtramck on Saturday with passports in hand, masks covering their faces. They are waiting to see Embassy of Bangladesh officials inside the restaurant. The people are brought in — a few at a time — to get their paperwork checked at the helpdesk. Some will need assistance to fill out forms in English. Then they will be called one by one to meet with a consular officer to get their passport renewals, visas and other travel documents.
The Embassy typically visits once a year but didn’t last year due to the pandemic. But as the Bangladeshi community in Michigan grows, so does the need for services.
Officials are bringing these essential services to the people, says Rumman Ahmed Sagoto, who has been volunteering at the mobile consular services for the past several years.
He says there is a greater need this year due to the Embassy’s decision not to visit last year due to the pandemic, but with the mobile embassy, they are meeting people where they are.
“Because they are here, they can do it here right now, they don’t have to go (to Washington, D.C., or New York) and do it.” — Rumman Ahmed Sagoto, volunteer
“Because they are here, they can do it here right now, they don’t have to go (to Washington, D.C., or New York) and do it. And also they can do the dual citizenship if they want to do it,” he says.
As of Monday night, 1,801 people have been served, according to the Embassy. With walk-ins, they expect to serve 2,200 by Tuesday.
First Secretary Mohammad Asphakul Numan says the mobile consular services provide access to people who otherwise would not be able to easily travel out of state, or those who may need assistance with filling out the required paperwork.
“Bangladeshi Americans born in Bangladesh, who are now American citizens who surrendered their Bangladeshi passports, they now want to get a visa to keep relations or visit, the Bangladeshi government can give them an No Visa Required (NVR). If someone wants to stay for 10 years, there is no visa required.”
Saima Khan has been helping to schedule appointments and process the NVRs.
“Today I know we have 190 NVRs,” she says. “We have about 200 renewals. Three, four new passports and then I think about like five power of attorneys. So, yeah, I think it’s pretty useful to have the mobile consular too because all this stuff people would have had to go to like Washington, D.C., to do…so coming here once a year, really helps.”
Mohammed Haque says many area residents need help filling out forms in English because many people don’t speak English or know how to fill out the paperwork.
“So we are helping … them because they are our community … so we help our people. That’s why I’m here.”
“Michigan is a starting point for Bangladeshis. … The community (is) rapidly growing.” — Muhith Mahmud, Michigan Bangladeshi American Democratic Caucus president
Muhith Mahmud is president of the Michigan Bangladeshi American Democratic Caucus. He volunteered his time over the weekend to facilitate the consular services.
“Michigan is a starting point for Bangladeshis,” he says.
“I think we stand in second, second most populated Bangladeshi populated city in Michigan beside in New York,” he points out. “The community … we are rapidly growing.”
Shuab Miah of Shelby Township says it’s his first time coming to the mobile consular services.
“This is my first time. For my family I went to Washington, D.C. I did not have my passport ready at the time so I was the only one needing it. So it’s because they’re here is a great opportunity to just take care of that right now.”
Services are available through Tuesday, March 2. For more information visit bdembassyusa.org.