Dealing with British bureaucracy

My British passport which still currently declares me to be an EU citizen © Ricky Yates

My current British passport © Ricky Yates

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.

8 comments to Dealing with British bureaucracy

  • Sean Mccann

    Hi Ricky,
    Not at all Kafkaesque – his works were straightforward by comparison! Good luck in your dealings with officialdom, sounds like you’ll need it all. Your good luck in saving money due to post Brexit turmoil on the currency markets neatly highlights the misfortune of my good friend and neighbour Caroline – a British pensioner who has retired to live in Ireland. The recent weakness of Sterling against the Euro has put a serious dent in her pension, and caused her great anxiety lest the situation get worse. The ‘swings and roundabouts of outrageous fortune’ spring to mind more and more these days. I hope all goes well with your passport quest and that the wedding is a wonderful occasion for all concerned. God bless.

    • Ricky

      Hi Sean,

      I did say that it wasn’t quite Kafkaesque. But it certainly isn’t very helpful.

      I sympathise with your neighbour Caroline. Exactly the same has happened to the small number of Brits who are UK pensioners living here in the Czech Republic. The considerable drop in the value of the pound has also dented the funds of the Prague Anglican Chaplaincy, held in Sterling on our behalf, by our diocesan office in London 🙁

      A passport update will be posted here in due course, and a report of the wedding.

  • Heather Garnett

    Hope your application is successful. You certainly seem to have covered every eventuality. Good luck.

  • I couldn’t help laughing, Ricky, this is such an absurd situation and Kafka would have loved it!! I also kept seeing Asterix and Obelix in that episode where they are to fill out forms and run up and down incessantly, being shovelled around for hours by the different officials, I think its Asterix and the twelve tasks.

    I haven’t read the sequel to this post but I look forward to it and feel immensely sorry for you. 27nd is on Wednesday, when is the wedding?? I really hope all goes well, you really did everything a poor minister can do in a situation like that. When we got the freedom to use our mental powers, we missed a few important paragraphs, about common sense and wisdom f.i.
    Good luck!!

    • Ricky

      I don’t blame you laughing, Solveig. Some aspects of it are quite absurd.

      The wedding is on Saturday 30th July. As I wrote, I arrive in the UK in the evening of Wednesday 27th, I will be in Peterborough on Thursday 28th, hopefully obtaining my new passport. Then I head for Nottingham for the wedding with a rehearsal planned for Friday 29th. I fly back to Prague on the evening of Sunday 31st.

  • Just wanted to wish you Gods speed and all the blessings available now when you are heading for the wedding and the obstacles that are threading in your way if I may say, don’t despair, rely on prayer. Such a nuisance this paperwork, but it does keep people in occupation I suppose… Passport, drivers license and a bright wonderful wedding, that is what we wish for!!!

    • Ricky

      Thank you Solveig – Yes, new passport tomorrow, all being well, & then to prepare for the wedding on Saturday.