On May 12th of this year, I began a journey. A journey that will hopefully conclude with a new UK passport. I call it a journey because I could have travelled around the world in the time it’s taken the UK Passport Office to pull it’s head out of it’s ass and be of some use to me. British Bureaucracy is unlike anything I have ever experienced before, and I used to live near a farm, I’ve seen plenty of horse shit.!
When I first set out on this journey, I needed to renew my old, now-expired UK passport, change my name and address details, and provide new photos as my old passport was 10 years old, and I look nothing like I did back then. I read all the way through the passport application information pack I had, which should have told me all I would need to know in applying for a new passport. That was the first ‘nope’. I thought going online to the official website, applying for a new passport, armed with my old one, photos, change of address etc. etc. was all that was needed. That was the second ‘nope’. I waited until the 23rd of May for a friend to get back from his holiday in France, so that he could confirm that the new photos I’d had taken were of me, sign and date them, and provide a copy of his own ID. Sorted, or so I thought.
I looked back through all the information that comes with the paper application form, and went through the lists of documentation needed, and checked all the right boxes that were relevant to someone who was renewing a passport, making changes to personal information and providing photos, and who now lived outside the UK. With all that within reach, I applied online, as I was supposed to, for a new UK passport, paying £121.- (€134.37, $160.35) for it. All went well until I got to the printouts. In applying online, the UK Passport Office send you an email with details of your application and payment, and a list of necessary documentation which you are supposed to print out and send with the documentation. I read the printout, only to see that I had to provide proof that my name was officially listed at my address, either through utility bills, tax letters, electoral letters or a letter from an official Dutch institution, and I had 6 weeks to provide it.! WTF.?!!
I don’t pay the bills, the big guy does. I don’t work, so I don’t pay taxes. I can’t vote in the national elections, only the local provincial elections, because I’m not Dutch, so my name’s not on the National Electoral Roll. I was completely buggered.! I am listed as living at this address, but not in an official capacity. So I emailed the UK Passport Office, to ask why that wasn’t part of the documentation requirements in their information pack.? Only to be told that all required documentation is listed in their information pack. Being the kind of person who takes even subtle hints of being called stupid badly, I went back through said information pack, and NOWHERE did it say I was required to prove my name was listed in official registers at my address. So I sent them copies of their required documentation lists, and a copy of the printout with the proof of name requirement listed on it.
I heard nothing back after a week. So I phoned them. When I finally got through, I explained that I had no idea I would have to prove my name because it wasn’t in the information pack, and I felt it very unfair to be charged for a passport when I did not have the right information to enable me to have the necessary documentation available. I was told point blank that most things can be sorted within six weeks, and there was no refund. Without a valid passport, I can’t identify myself in the Netherlands, because everything is linked to your passport. If I can’t identify myself, I’m in BIG trouble, so I have to have a passport either way.
Panicking, because not only was I going to be stuck in the Netherlands without a valid form of ID, I wouldn’t be able to see my children, who live in England, the big guy and I went to the local Town Hall for help on May 30th. We explained my predicament at length, and had to wait while the lady we’d spoken to had to explain it to her manager, who in turn had to make phone calls to some local government hierarchy, which on July 3rd, resulted in them saying they could ‘possibly’ help, and did I have a short list of documentation available.? And if so, was any of it apostilled.? Well, no, obviously nothing was apostilled, because I had never needed to go down that road before, neither had I had to prove who my parents were, so while the Town Hall lady was dealing with my predicament from her end, I had to get hold of a copy of my parents wedding certificate, (which took two weeks) and together with my birth certificate, decree absolute and change of name deed poll, send it all to Milton Keynes to get apostilled.
An apostille is an inkless stamp with the British Foreign And Commonwealth Office’s coat of arms on it, which confirms that all the documents provided are genuine and not fakes. Each document is stamped, and a certificate of authenticity attached to the back of the document, signed by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Officer. These things cost £30.- (€33.32, $39.76) each and you have to pay postage which amounted to £27.50.! £147.50 (€163.82, $195.50) in all… and also took two weeks. By this time the money I’d paid back in May when I first applied for a passport was lost. I was furious.!!
The Town Hall had to follow their bureaucratic procedures, and go to a lawyer to find out if it was possible to re-register me as officially living in the Netherlands. Thank God I had an English solicitor-signed deed poll, as it was the only thing that would allow that to happen. If I’d bought it in England, but had it confirmed in the Netherlands, I would have been screwed, but because we went back to England last October and got it signed by an officially registered solicitor, it was good to go. That took another month.
Once all the documents were back, checked and handed in, and copies had been made. I was told it would take about a week for them to get back to me, as to whether it was even possible to register me, and then they’d get on to actually registering me as officially living in the Netherlands, at the address I’ve been living at for the past 5 years. Yesterday, the big guy got the call saying that I could be registered officially, and that they were now starting the process of actually doing it.! This will take three weeks. At which time I will have the necessary documentation to apply again for a new UK passport.
What made me laugh, possibly a tad maniacally, was that on August 30th I received an email from the UK Passport Office confirming that the necessity for a British Citizen living outside the UK, to have official proof of their name and address was NOT part of the information pack they provide, but it would be when the new guidelines were produced as part of the EU exit. I still would not be granted a refund though. Bastards.! They also provided a list of the necessary documents I would need before making an online application for a new Overseas British Subject UK passport. *sigh*
What worries me now is that a new Passport is going to take 4-6 weeks, if everything goes as smoothly as it damn well wants to, after all the hassle I’ve been through, which brings me to late-October, when everything is going to cost a fortune to arrange, because only then can I start reserving hotels, ferry crossings, the bloody Dartford Crossing toll charge, which caught me unawares two years ago, which could prove far more costly than it would have been had I been able to do all that months ago, as I usually would have. I also need to make an appointment with my parents, and ensure they’re happy to wait around until we turn up. Yes, I did say make an appointment., My parents are very busy people, apparently, and don’t like unexpected visitors, even if it’s one of their kids. 🙂
All in, this new passport will have cost almost £412.- (€460.86, $541.71). Bureaucracy is apparently, a necessary evil, but why does it have to be such a major pain in the ass and cost a small fortune.?! Had I lived in England it would have cost only £75.50 (€83.80, $100.26).
UPDATE: After three weeks I received a registration certificate from the local town hall, which cost €16.50 (£14.75, $19.39), I had to download new Passport Application paperwork, because the paperwork I filled out in May was no longer valid, so would not be accepted. This also meant I had to get my counter-signatory to re-fill out all his details. The day after we arranged a meeting, he was in an accident, and in recovery for two weeks. When we eventually met up, he re-filled out all his details and I applied for a new UK Passport that evening, armed with all the necessary documentation listed on the official UK Passport Office’s list. I paid and waited for the necessary download, that I had to print out, only to find the new paperwork was different from that which I had downloaded and printed in May, and I would need my counter-signatory to re-do his details AGAIN on the new paperwork.! Unbelievable.!!!