UK Passport   2 comments

passport-and-mojito-mixings

 

“When I was an American, I ran as an American, I drank
as an American, I traveled as an American: but when I
became British, I put away those childish things.”

 

The application for your first adult UK passport is another boondoggle (see ILR saga and Citizenship).  Having just been granted citizenship, this should be straightforward but that would be too straightforward.

For instance, Section 4 of the application (required only for your FIRST adult passport) asks for the names, dates of birth, nationality at the time of your birth, and date of wedding of your parents.  Seems fair enough; and, if they have British passports you should also supply these details (mine did not and as they are rotting in hell this should be the full extent of the inquiry).  But, no.  As they were born overseas, I needed also to provide these details for my grandparents even though the application is based on my Certificate of Naturalisation and not on any claim of British Nationality by birth.

Additionally, I had to have the endorsement of someone professional or with other standing in the community that knows me well enough to pick me out of a crowd (or, as is more likely, to avert their eyes if they spot me across a crowded room).  I know loads of people with letters after their surnames like DBE/KBE, FRS, PE or CEng, DPhil/PhD but most of the ones I would usually hit up were unavailable in the time I set aside to take this document to the Post Office.  I opted for one of the professors I work for at Oxford and all he had to do was sign, date, and write this statement on the back of one of my photographs:

I certify that this is a true likeness of First Middle Lastname

Which he proceeded to do leaving out the word ‘true’ and my middle name.  He also failed to date the photo (which I noticed and added myself hoping the other bits would go through).  He also needed to fill in some personal details on the form in BLACK ink (which he did in BLUE ink then when I pointed it out he went back over in black).  At the Post Office, they rejected the photo for those omissions, and the next one (it is my fault for not checking behind him) for leaving out the word ‘this’ then when I returned with my final copy of the photo done correctly the document checker was concerned that the blue ink might make the passport office reject the application.  “But, there’s black ink on top…blue is only bad because it is transparent to the reprographics equipment they use.”  I took a clean form, filled in everything myself, and got his signature on that one in the event the manager says that this one shouldn’t go in.

spoiled-passport-photos

 

But, that’s only the start.  Even though they have seen every pay stub and immigration document I have ever received since the day I applied for the job, have an iris scan, all my fingerprints, and letters of reference from the Chancellor of Cambridge University and a chaired professor at University of Oxford (who is also a Dame Commander of the British Empire) vouching for more than my identity but also my good character — even after all that and granting me citizenship — the passport office required that I come down to an appointment to confirm my identity based on info they have garnered from this application and a related credit check.  They had my US Passport, my Certificate of Naturalisation, and access to roughly 5 kg of documents supporting applications for a Work Permit (starting late 2008), a Tier 2 Visa and 2 renewals, Indefinite Leave To Remain, Citizenship, a Patent, Work and Pensions documents, and specific dates for each house I’ve lived in and every trip abroad whether for work or vacation (and letters from University of Oxford and Cambridge University stating that they were aware that I was abroad during each of those periods away).

The interrogation — they call it an interview — was meant to be a relaxed thing and only in place to prevent identity fraud.  So, I went in relaxed.  My interviewer asked my full name and I gave her those and spelled each of them.  I was probably a bit too relaxed from then on. For example:

“What is your occupation?” I started chuckling at that so before I could answer, she asked why.
“I’m a research scientist and engineer but I generally tell strangers I’m a rodeo clown or an underwear model.  At best, I just say I work in a lab.”
After a pause, she said, “okay, then,” and briefly consulted her computer screen. “What does your job as research scientist entail?”  I resisted, barely, the urge to say, “standing around in my skivvies while photographers and lighting techs work their magic.”

There were odd questions about the house we currently live in and the house we moved from; I tried not to give odd answers but I was already rolling at that point. Then, this came up: “now, I’d like to ask about your family. What can you tell me about your parents?”
“What can’t I tell you about them? My dad died in 2006, mom in 2004 but they were ancient and had never taken care of themselves so they were living in double overtime at that point.”
“They didn’t take care of themselves? Were they workaholics?”
“Ha! ALCOholics, but at least you were half right.”
“Oh, I’m very sorry, we won’t go there, then.”
“Noooo, you brought it up; this is for you.” I couldn’t contain my glee. “Mom was also on a warehouse of prescription meds. She was working dozens of GPs to get ‘scrips. I had a theory that she actually passed away 20 years earlier but the exquisite balance of pharmaceuticals, nicotine, and alcohol gave her the appearance of life or, at least, animation.”  Nodding to myself, I added, “that would explain the weird noises she made.”
The Passport Office woman’s mouth was open as she stared, aghast. I clicked my fingers and she shook her head slightly. “Do you have any siblings?”
“Oh, well, there’s my sister but I disowned her and her whole felonious, white-trash brood and if I never see any of them again it will be too soon. What do you want to know about her?”
“That’s enough,” she answered too quickly.  “One…sister,” she mumbled to herself as she typed.

A couple of questions later she seemed to have regained composure and asked if I could describe the process I went through such that I was now applying for a British Passport. “Do you mean the whole saga or just the bureaucratic hoops I jumped through?”
Wincing as she nodded and pointing at me with her pen, “yes, just the Immigration process,” then in the brief moment before I could continue, “please,” as though she were asking for mercy.
“Okay, but it’s a better story if I tell you how I decided to abandon America,” I offered.
“No, I’m sure it is, but no.”
“That’s a pity. Right,” and we briefly went through what I remembered of the applications submitted these last nearly 8 years.

At the end, she asked if I had any comments about the interview and I pointed out how I felt it was surreal. She replied, “really, you found this surreal?” so, I responded with a condensed version of the first part of this post about how they already have all this info on me having conferred citizenship just a few weeks ago.  “Don’t YOU think that’s all kind of weird?”

“No,” she answered. “I meant to ask how it is YOU found this surreal.”
Her point was valid and I smiled broadly and shrugged. “You do these all day, every half hour?” I asked as I rose to leave.
She smiled and nodded. “But, not usually like this.”

That was just before 9 am Wednesday.  My passport arrived just before 10 am Friday.

passport-scan-pixellated

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: