Step 1. Have a think about this year’s holiday. Might you want to do something different from the past decade’s Holier Than Thou UK-zero-carbon-based rainathons? Might it be nice to use some of your recent small increase in salary to have a warm, adventurous and foreign week with your nearest and dearest? Might you be starting to feel a teensy bit resentful about the insane cost of going away within the UK in school holidays, to lodge somewhere one third of the size and about half the niceness of your own abode? If yes, consider having… An Overseas Holiday! It could be just the thing you are looking for!
Step 2. Review the requirements for going overseas. Does every member of the party have a valid passport? If no, investigate what is required, and consider whether you can still take An Overseas Holiday, given the time constraints on when it’s possible and affordable to travel. Adult passports are fine, and sat safely in the safe. Children do not have passports as have never been abroad. Have flown in plane to Scilly Isles once, but that doesn’t count, despite its “foreign” and “adventurous” undertones of travelling through the air in a Ford Transit with wings.
Step 3. Can the passports arrive before the potential Overseas Holiday? Well, the on line guidance says that first time child passport applications usually take three weeks. Some friends say theirs arrived in 10 days. Other friends say a week. Anyway, you decide that <21 days is acceptable, so you proceed with the application (see Step 4) and book the relevant components of your Overseas Holiday, which is now in the calendar and planned to happen in 28 days’ time.
Step 4. The Application. Check and double check the application notes. Accept the risk that the passports may not arrive within three weeks, but that there are no alternative options for first time child applications other than the Top Priority Urgent Go Sit In The Very Far Away Passport Office All Day option, at a net cost of a squillion pesetas per child, which frankly seems like overkill. (If a formal Risk Assessment had been done, it’d be scored low probability, high impact, with various undefined mitigating actions to fill in the relevant boxes.) Anyway, you fill in the passport application on line. Pay £98. Check you have all the relevant supporting documents. Double check. Print the application. Append the documents. Get countersignatures on photographs from an appropriately qualified professional.
Step 5. Check everything again. Post at Post Office. Pay £7 special delivery just to be sure.
Step 6. Ten days later, receive second class letter from Passport Office related to one of the applications, saying wrong birth certificate received for Child A. WTF? What’s a WRONG birth certificate – surely once one is born, one only has a single birth certificate, and that’s it, end (/beginning) of story?
Not so… once one is born, one receives a red birth certificate which says “Certificate of Birth” in lovely official red print with a nice fountain-pen signature, and (apparently) there’s another certificate which says “Certified Copy of an Entry” in boring black type, masquerading as something other than an official birth certificate. The latter is what they want – despite clear instructions in the guidance notes not to send copies of anything. However, you’re now feeling the stress of things going wrong, and vaguely wondering if rainy Devon mightn’t have been a better idea, so hunt out Certified Copy of an Entry certificates for both children, and get ready to proceed with the required process, like the obedient, law-abiding, non-complaining UK citizens you have truly confirmed yourselves to be.
Step 7. Panic: child A does not even have a Certified Copy of an Entry certificate. Why would you own one child’s paperwork but not the other? Was one of them loved more? Did you raise the other in a barn? Arrrgghhh! Contact county Registrar. They can do a replacement copy of a Certified Copy of an Entry, but it’ll take up to seven days, unless you pay for the emergency next day service (£30). Pay. Certified Copy of an Entry certificate arrives next day… with a normal first class franking mark on it. Well done, Anytown Borough Council – what a jolly wheeze to supplement your shrinking income, extorting from desperate citizens for merely doing your job and using the franking machine.
Step 8. Post both Child A’s and Child B’s Certified Copy of an Entry paperwork, along with covering letters with all the reference numbers, using Special Delivery to the relevant passport office. Pay £7. Spend all evening wondering whether this was right thing to do, bearing in mind it is only Child A’s application that is officially without correct certificate. Maybe Child B’s is currently proceeding smoothly – thinks you – and by sending in extra documents we will just confuse the poor monkeys churning the passport machine? Oh well…better safe than sorry.
Step 9. Wait 3 days. Phone the only contact number the Passport Office are willing to say or print aloud (despite confirmation of receipt of live application, reference numbers, correspondence seeking further documents, etc.). Wait on hold for long enough to cook a light lunch for two. Speak to a junior headset monkey. Give them reference numbers. They can’t look up what’s happening to your application – but they can email the relevant department. They do so. You will be re-contacted within 48 hours.
Step 10. Wait 2 more days. Phone Passport Office 0345 number. Wait on hold (5 mins) to eventually receive automated callback message service. Leave contact number and name.
Step 11. Wait another 12 hours. Phone 0345 number again. Press a new random sequence of self-select call options. Wait on hold (12 mins) to eventually reach a real person speaking. Real Person can actually look up current status of application. Take care not to fall off chair in shock. Real Person says application was only officially started once correct certificates met up with application, i.e. 5 days ago, which, he says “is strange as they usually start processing it when they receive it the first time…” (i.e. 15 days ago). In addition Real Person says current average application time for child passports is four weeks from official start date. You are meant to fly in 8 days. Oh f##k.