March 18, 2005

Have passport, can travel

The 4 month saga of my passport renewal has just come to a close, and I am here to breathe a sigh of relief and tell you about it, no doubt in great length.

It started way back in November, when the lovely Rachel and I decided, on a slightly insane whim, to take part in the Jailbreak challenge. Shortly after this I discovered that my passport (once it had been sent up from London) was due to expire a mere 4 days after the Jailbreak weekend. Panic ensued, as I ran to the Post Office to obtain a renewal form. After successfully negotiating the task of filling out the form, and having not-too-terrible photos taken, I went to find the only person on campus who could legally counter-sign it – my tutor. As he couldn't find a black biro anywhere, he filled in the form with a fountain pen. The ink leaked through the paper and the Post Office refused to accept the form. I was given another one, filled it in again, and took it for counter-signing, this time bringing my own pen with me. Everything seemed fine, until I took the new form back to the Post Office, only to be informed that, as part of my tutor's signature lay approximately 0.5mm outside the box, they would have to reject the form.

Dejected, I gave up. We opted for the 12 hour Jailbreak, on the assumption that anywhere we could get to in that time would be fine for me to enter on an almost-expired passport. As it turned out however, we never quite made it out of the country, and instead spent a rather stressful 6 hours running round airports in the naive hope that an airline would be feeling charitable. More fool us…but that is another story.

And so my passport expired. I wasn't going anywhere so I pushed it to the back of my mind. But then, 5 weeks ago, I suddenly realised that I had booked a holiday to France, without having a passport (or driving license) with which to identify myself. I got another form and headed, with great dread, to see my tutor once again. For the third time, he failed to write inside the boxes provided, and the Post Office rejected the form. This time however, I'd had enough. I decided to take my chances with the "incorrect" form via Royal Mail, saving me the £6 that the Post Office charge for checking the form and guaranteeing its correctness. The only problem now was the extra week the Passport Office claimed it would take if you didn't use the Checking Service – that and the possibility of rejection again.

Three weeks later, I received a phone call from my dad in London. He told me that he had just been given my returned documents – namely my old passport – by the people living at number 4 in our road. Our address is number 9, and while I'm pretty sure I filled in the form very clearly, the Passport Office people obviously couldn't tell the difference. The problem now was that this was the second piece of mail sent to number 4 addressed to me. The first – my new passport, had already been put back in the post by the people living there. It wasn't until the second letter that they became suspicious, opened it and discovered my old passport, with my correct address in it. My dad informed me that he had phoned the Passport Office, and they would be sending me a Lost in the Post form directly, to arrive the next day (this was last Saturday).

Unsurprisingly it didn't, and hadn't turned up by Monday either. Rather stressed, I phoned the office myself, and got them to fax me the form to fill out and fax back immediately, along with details of my travel arrangements for a week's time, to show them that they needed to HURRY THE HELL UP.

After a day of hearing nothing, I called again. I was told that, as they had not received my passport back, and if sent via Royal Mail it could take up to 4 weeks for them to do so. However they were confirming that they address they sent it to and the address I was telling them they sent it to were the same before they would issue me a new one.

The next morning (Wednesday) they woke me up with a 10am phone call, to tell me that they would be phoning me again later. Which really made my day, obviously.

When that later call came, it was to tell me that everything was fine, they would be printing me a passport and sending it by special delivery, to arrive at my London address before noon the next day. Of course, come noon yesterday, it still wasn't there. Another call home revealed that they had been "trying to contact me all day" (despite the fact that my phone had been on and I hadn't received or missed any calls) to tell me that there had been a problem with printing and it would now be arriving before noon today.

And it finally has. So now I can go to France on Monday to visit this bitch, and take some rather more impressive photos of my own.


- 5 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Mathew Mannion

    Ah, the old passport office signing around the box malarky… I went all the way to sodding Peterborough to get the passport office to sort mine out personally, and received it in the post 3 days later. Also, 2 weeks before my 16th birthday, which was highly illegal and yummy and also amusing with them saying "There's no way you'll receive it before your birthday".

    But yeah, I signed outside the box on the first form I filled in, much to my annoyance. It does say in big letters *not to sign outside the fucking box*. Is your tutor silly or what to do it twice?

    18 Mar 2005, 12:12

  2. When I asked him specifically not to he said "My signature is a thing of great exuberance".

    I'm not going to say bad things about him though, because obviously he might read this. ;–)
    Not that I would anyway. Honest.

    18 Mar 2005, 13:04

  3. Sassan Sanei

    Coming soon to a theatre near you: The Passport. An epic original motion picture starring Tom Hanks as Simon Brent, a travelbug–stricken student without a passport; Owen Wilson as the nasty Robert Weston, a skier with an axe to grind; and Meg Ryan as the lovely Rachel Leow, of Jailbreak Challenge fame. And introducing Estelle di Stella as the diseased passport office clerk whose sole joy in life is depriving others of the right to travel freely across international borders.

    Will Simon ever get his passport in time for his big trip to France? Will Robert come off the slopes for just a few minutes to say hello? What will Rachel think of all this? And will our venomous passport office clerk realize that true joy comes from helping others, and undergo a life–changing metamorphosis a mere 98 minutes (not including trailers or credits)?

    To find out, go see The Passport. Truly a film without borders. Free popcorn with advance ticket purchase.

    18 Mar 2005, 14:56

  4. ROFL…although you mis–cast everyone. I am certainly not Smug–Fat–Face Hanks, although I can see Rob as Owen Wilson possibly…and I think the answer to "What will Rachel think of all this?" would probably be "I'm nothing like Meg Ryan", followed by a high–pitched squeaking noise as she proceeds to use you as a punchbag. Or something.
    But you have given me much needed laughter after my 3 hours of Solid State Physics revision.
    /Goes to find a wet sponge and a plug socket

    18 Mar 2005, 18:45

  5. Muzaffer

    What you should know before going to france

    All travellers must have a valid passport except: EU Nationals and nationals of Andorra Liechtenstein, Monaco and Switzerland, who may travel holding an expired passport provide it expired within the last 5 years, or a valid national ID card. Advisable to have a return ticket as proof of sufficient funds to finance stay, although this is not an absolute requirement. Requirements may be subject to short term change. Contact embassy before departure.

    30 Jun 2005, 22:53


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