Long-standing readers of my blog will know that I have previously written numerous times about my various run-ins with Czech bureaucracy. For example, trying to exchange my UK driving licence for a Czech one, which I described as ‘a Kafkaesque experience‘. Therefore I think it is only fair that I should also write about some illogicalities of British bureaucracy that I’m currently dealing with.
As I explained in an earlier post, my UK passport expires in December 2016. Whilst because of Brexit, I am giving serious consideration of changing my nationality should I lose the right to freely reside in any EU member state, that will not happen before December. Therefore, I have had to sort out how and when I can obtain a new UK passport.
As I explained in that earlier post and in response to comments on it, the days of the British Embassy issuing new passports to its citizens resident here are long gone – everything has been centralised in the UK. And because I cannot risk being without my passport for up to four weeks, which is what would be the case if I were to apply from Prague, completing an online application form, paying the fee and then sending everything off to a UK Passport Office, I’ve decided to bite the bullet.
I am going to use Her Majesty’s Passport Office Premium Service which should result in my new passport being issued to me, no more than four hours after submitting my application. Of course, this doesn’t come cheap; it costs £128.00 which I’ve already paid. Ironically, I’ve actually benefited from one consequence of the recent Brexit referendum. The fall in the value of Sterling means paying that fee has cost me CZK 300 less than it would have done on Thursday 23rd June 🙂
I have arranged to fly to the UK on the evening of Wednesday 27th July, one day earlier than I was originally going to do, in order to officiate at my son Phillip’s wedding. I will then spend most of the following day in Peterborough, obtaining my new passport. But this is where British bureaucracy is unthinking and leaves much to be desired, for those who like me, live outside of the UK.
To use Her Majesty’s Passport Office Premium Service, you have to go online and book an appointment at a Passport Office, in my case the one in Peterborough, and pay the £128.00 fee. But it is only possible to book an appointment no more than three weeks in advance. I’ve had my flight booked for a couple of months, but was only able to get a definite appointment last Thursday.
Then comes the first absurdity. Despite having to book your appointment online, you cannot download an application form online. If you are applying from the UK, you must obtain an application form from a UK Post Office. I’m flying into Luton Airport, arriving at 20.45 on the evening of Wednesday 27th July, when all Post Offices will be closed. I will then pick up my hire car and drive to Peterborough and stay there overnight. Do I really want to be driving around the suburbs of Peterborough the next morning, desperately trying to find a Post Office in advance of my appointment?
I enquired at the British Embassy here in Prague, whether they had any passport application forms, but they do not. I’ve eventually solved the problem by getting Phillip to go to a Post Office in Nottingham, obtain a form and post it to me. But I’m sure I’m not the first Brit living outside the UK who has run into this problem, one that could be easily solved by making the application form available online.
Having received the form in the post yesterday, I set about carefully filling in the required sections. One of these asks me to provide my current UK address. I don’t have one! Do I put down the address of the hotel where I am staying the previous night? Or the hotel in Nottingham where I’m staying for the wedding weekend? For the time being, I’ve left the section blank and will try to resolve that one at the Passport Office.
Obviously, I have to have two new passport photographs that comply with the guidance notes issued by HM Passport Office. As I am renewing an existing passport, the notes say that I need to have a photo countersigned, ‘only if you can’t be recognised from the photo in your current passport’. But who decides whether or not I can be recognised? Presumably, the member of staff who receives my application when I arrive for my appointment in Peterborough.
The photograph in my current passport is over ten years old, I now have less hair, and what hair I still have has gone grey. So the obvious thing to do is to have my new photograph countersigned as an insurance. But then I face Catch 22. If I am applying in the UK, the counter signatory needs to reside in the UK. How do I manage that when I’m only arriving the night before?
Whilst not quite Kafkaesque, all of this is certainly illogical and unhelpful. Watch this space to see if in two weeks time, I have been successful in my quest.