British Bureaucracy Strikes Again

A few days after I wrote about my brush with British Bureaucracy, it’s happened again. This time it’s with the UK’s Passport Office.

My UK passport is due for renewal. The last time I did this, I just trotted along to the British Consulate in Amsterdam with all the necessary forms and photos, together with my old passport, and got my new one sent to me within the week.

Now I discover that, for reasons of efficiency, no British consulates do this anymore. Passport renewal has to be done through a central passport office based in the UK. As a result, there’s now a huge backlog of nearly half a million applications waiting to be processed. Efficient? I think not. Naturally, there are long delays in turnaround times.

I went online to fill out the passport renewal form and discovered that not only do I have to send in my old passport, I also have to submit any other passports that I hold. Send in my Dutch passport, only to have it languish in an office somewhere for months until they get round to dealing with my application? I don’t think so. I know what will happen – I’ll have a family emergency with my brother in Scotland, and be unable to travel because I would be without a passport.

So I completed the form just giving the details of my UK passport and handed over my credit card details. At that point, you’re issued with a further form that you have to print out and fill in, and send off together with your supporting documentation and current passport.

I notice on this form, it softens the requirement slightly. It says, for non-British passports:

“We strongly prefer to receive the passport. However, in exceptional circumstances where you may need to retain the passport, we will accept a full colour photocopy of the entire passport (including all visa pages). We reserve the right to request the passport at a later stage as we examine your application. Please provide an explanation as to why you need to retain your passport.”

So that’s what I did – sent them a copy, and giving them the following reasons:

  1. My brother lives in Scotland. He is 79 years old and has recently suffered a heart attack.
  2. The UK has opted-out from the Schengen Agreement, thus I need to produce my passport upon entry to Scotland.
  3. I understand that the Passport Office currently has a large backlog of applications, and there are long delays in the processing of applications.
  4. There is therefore an increased risk that if another family emergency arises, I would be unable to travel to Scotland at short notice. This risk is unacceptable to me.

I have therefore enclosed a colour photocopy of my complete Dutch Passport, as required, together with a certified copy of the main page signed by a Dutch Notary. I trust that this will be sufficient to allow the processing of my British Passport renewal to proceed.

We will see.

Postscript: My new passport arrived today (21st July), five weeks after the old one was sent in. The Passport Office returned my old, now cancelled passport, and kept the certified copy of my Dutch passport. For some reason, they sent two separate packages by courier: one containing my new passport, and one containing my cancelled passport. I fail to see how this could be claimed to be more efficient; it was certainly more expensive than a single package containing both documents would have been…

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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3 Responses to British Bureaucracy Strikes Again

  1. Ludwig says:

    Good luck! Hope there won’t be any additional delays. Rest assured that the U.K. is not the only country plagued with crushingly inept bureaucracy. Some years back my wife and I sent in our U.S. passports for renewal. She promptly received her new (and old) passport, but time dragged on and I heard nothing. Finally I got through to a human (or so I thought) and was told that the problem was my country of birth. The one I had shown in the prior passport no longer existed, so I was told “you couldn’t have been born in a country that doesn’t exist”. We settled for a blank space – I still have that passport with no country of birth 😉

  2. Matt Healy says:

    My wife just renewed her US Passport; all went smoothly. One thing the US does have in common with the UK — her new passport came in one envelope and the next day came another envelope with her old passport and birth certificate. Dunno why they couldn’t just put everything in one envelope. A few years ago a friend won a court case with the State of Connecticut that she was entitled to 27 weekly checks. She expected they would then send her one check for the total, but that’s not how they did it. Over about about a week she got 27 separate envelopes each containing a check for one week’s worth of what the court had ruled she was entitled to get. Guess their system had no mechanism for just bundling up the series of payments into a lump sum. Didn’t seem terribly efficient to her, but since she did end up getting the full amount she wasn’t about to complain.

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