Thursday, April 03, 2008

Passport Paddy

Passports! Who needs them? The whole family except me. Twice over, once for each nationality. Because we're visiting England en famille for the first time since we moved here six years ago and we have to have a passport for each country or else suffer the dire consequences of committing an offence endangering our dual nationality. And these free countries that we live in have such draconian regulations regarding passport applications, that you have to bend over backwards and go through hoops without the tiniest hint of a smile on your face, just in case you're a terrorist trying to disguise your true features by grinning…even when you're seven.

No I'm not bitter and twisted. I have however spent a whole morning queuing in our local Home Affairs for the children's South African passports, with the children getting more and more grumpy. I felt pleased at my perseverance, confident that I'd been efficient and organised. Once I got to the head of the queue it was a simple process and didn't take too long, we didn't even need to show the children's birth certificates, as they are all on the system, ID numbers and all.

Only to receive this evening a photocopied letter from the British Commission in Jo'berg informing me that three out of four of our British passport applications required new photos due to 'teeth showing', 'face not at a straight angle' etc - and, horror of horrors, they need an unabridged birth certificate for Youngest, which since she was born here, means I'll have to go straight back to queue in Home Affairs and I've been told that those take 12 weeks to be issued…..we are due to leave in just under 12 weeks ….aaaaaagh!! It's like playing Monopoly and playing your get out of jail free card, only to throw doubles and land straight back on the Go to Jail square.

So either Youngest will have to enter the UK on a South African passport with a visa (how long will that take to come through, I wonder?) or there'll be a lovely person on the end of the telephone tomorrow morning, who'll tell me that actually the documents I sent will do fine after all, or Home Affairs will process the birth certificate in record time, or … I can't think of a fourth option that's legal…!

So why do the British authorities make it so hard to submit an acceptable photo to them. My sister-in-law also had her application returned because of her photo - she was smiling. Surely the customs people could just ask us to smile when we come through passport control when they want to compare our face with the photo. Wouldn't that make the whole process more welcoming and friendly and pleasanter for them too?


  1. Ugh. I hate bureaucracy! Good luck! I hope it all works out.

  2. I have to reapply for my German residency this month, and just reading your post makes the sweat break out on my brow. Bureaucracy makes me anxious! Good luck with the horror and hope it all gets sorted out soon.

  3. New photos because you're smiling? Wow, that is strict!!

  4. Maybe all the long lines and torture you are put through is to help insure that you will NOT be smiling in your passport photo?

  5. Oh man...I do love passports. It's as if they really don't want you to leave the country. One of my British friends is in the process of getting a new passport so she can come visit me and it's certainly an exercise in patience.

  6. oh that's rough! Perhaps they want all photos to look bad because they figure people look bad after travelling?

    Now that I think of it, I was smiling in my passport photo. It's expired now, so we'll be dealing with this too.

  7. Gotta love bureaucracy... We also have one of each collour of passport and have had to deal with both governments, although our UK passport application came with instructions re. what the photos could and could not show - smiling was a big no-no. What I don't understand is why governments can't be more complete and specific with their instructions PRIOR to the application, rather than rejecting applications and telling you the reasons after the fact. I do agree - you are certainly made to feel like a terrorist!


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!