Nigel's Eyes

20220718 To the British Passport Office: the pandemic is over. We need to travel.

Some years ago, the British Passport Office was in a mess. It took months to renew passports. It promised me compensation for delay. No surprise, the compensation never arrived. I was prepared: I had two passports.

Now I need to renew my second passport. The Passport Office, notwithstanding the fact that I have had two passports for many years, is being difficult. But what's even more ridiculous is that its own failures perfectly demonstrate why I need two passports.

I have just had delivered to my address in the UK a letter from the British Passport Office. It is dated 7 July. It arrived on 16th July.

It refers to my application for passport renewal made on or about 22 April 2022 via the Post Office and its "internal" mail service with the Passport Office.

The letter says that a second passport is issued only in exceptional circumstances.

The Passport Office is in a mess again. A few days after I made my application, it said that it was working towards a turnaround time of eleven weeks.

That was no use to me but, hey, that's part of the reason I have two passports, as recommended by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office some years ago.

A few days after the application was submitted and after the announcement that it would take eleven weeks to issue the new passport, I left the UK. In the post pandemic world, I was delighted to be back flying. Over the next few weeks, we built the schedule for The Financial Crime Forum, and enquiries for consultancy and face to face training picked up. The Financial Crime Forum is a UK corporation.

This week, I expect to travel to Thailand and Singapore and back to base in Malaysia. None of this would be possible without my passport. If I had submitted, for renewal, an only passport in April, I would still be trapped in the UK.

Trapped as in imprisoned, unable to move, to go to work, having no access to my massive data store and library in Kuala Lumpur.

But the Passport Office cannot realise that its own failures amply demonstrate why I need two passports. It has taken almost three months to produce a form letter in response to a box on a form that says I need two passports - and explains why.

But now an office worker wants documentation to prove that which is self-evident.

And, even more bizarrely, includes a label in the letter that it says it wants attached to the outside of the envelope when I send them the material.

The letter is in the UK. I am about to get on a plane and don't expect to be in the UK until the Forum in December, unless a training enquiry comes to something. So I don't have the label.

This is another example of how, during the pandemic and its aftermath, organisations have kept themselves busy by creating systems that make things worse. Government departments, especially those that make regulations, have been at the forefront, around the world, of dreaming up ways to make the lives of ordinary people trying to do ordinary things more difficult.

It's frustrating and it's foolish and I'm fed up with it but in complaining, I'm just howling at the moon.

Why do I need two passports, other than the fact that every time one goes for renewal it disappears into a black hole?

It's for visas. Over the next two years, I'm going to need more than a dozen visas, some more than once. Tourist visas are, for British passport holders, often issued on arrival or through an e-visa scheme. But business visas are not: they can take as much as ten days during which my passport is held at an embassy. Are you there yet? That means that, for anything up to 100 days a year, my passport will be out of my possession but not, strictly, out of my control.

That's why the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said I should have two passports. The fact that the British Passport Office would sit on it for several months at a time was not, at that time, a concern: I used to fly to Hong Kong and get a renewal the same day. In Malaysia, citizens can go to the local passport office (of which there are many) and get a renewal while they wait. How is it that the UK with all of its resources has become so utterly chaotic and, then, stupid?

So now I have to wait until I'm back at base in KL, gather or even originate the documents requested, find a way to fake the label and stick it to the envelope containing the documents, go to a post office and mail the envelope because electronic delivery isn't accepted. Then I will wait. Will it be another three months? Who can tell? All I know is that my travel schedule is likely to be severely disrupted by the fact that I can only apply for a visa when I'm somewhere I'm going to be for, say, two weeks. And that will happen once or twice a month. So if I can't travel for two weeks twice a month, then I can't travel at all.

But they can't understand that. Because they live such simple lives inside their simple minds.

Groan. Sometimes it's embarrassing to be British.