Monday, July 6, 2009

Travels with my passport..... or without at this rate!

On July 17th, the CH's passport will expire. The rate things are going, I may well follow it!

The CH, having confidently assured me that his passport is valid until 2010, has just discovered that he has discalculia. It runs out in a matter of weeks in good old 2009. Now, bearing in mind that the next phone call could be a job - although the last few thousand haven't been - requiring his presence on some foreign soil, it would be a disaster to have an invalid passport so steps must be taken to renew it forthwith. How difficult could that be?

A quick check of the British Consulate website in Paris revealed that the cost of a passport from Paris would cost a total of 175 euros. The same passport renewed in the UK on his next trip was £114. or roughly 132 euros, a whole 45 euros less. All he had to do was make an appointment via the Passport Adviceline in the UK and have a new passport the same day. Only trouble was, there was no telephone number. The only telephone number was for the company who handles passport enquiries in France (while having no actual link to the Consulate's passport office) was 69p a minute plus the cost of an overseas phonecall. Usury!

So, on to the Directgov site which gleefully exclaimed...

If you are a non-UK resident

If you do not live in the UK, you can apply in person to renew your passport while visiting the UK. To do this you need to call the IPS Passport Adviceline on +44 (0)300 222 0000 to make an appointment at a Regional Passport Office. You must also provide an address in the UK to which IPS can post the new passport.

Perfect. I dialled the number

A sultry French voice advised me that 'le numéro que vous démandez n'est pas attribué'

Not so perfect. According to the French exchange, this number doesn't exist.

A bit more digging and I found an e-mail address. I composed my e-mail

Dear Sir/Madam

I would like to make an appointment for my husband to renew his passport at a Regional passport centre on his next trip to the UK. However, the Passport Adviceline number cannot be called from overseas. Please could you provide me with the correct overseas direct dial number

Kind regards
Mme VLiF

Several hours later they replied....

Dear Madame,

Thank you for your enquiry

If you need to renew or apply for a British passport whilst overseas, or you have any queries relating to this, you will need to contact your nearest British Embassy. If you check the website of the Foreign Commonwealth Office you will be able to locate the nearest consular post. Their web address is:

Thank you.
Customer service e-mail team

To which I replied....

Please refer back to my original e-mail as you do not appear to have understood my query.I am quite aware of the Consular passport services. The British Consulate in Paris does not take phonecalls about passports. It is dealt with by an outsourced company and would cost me GDP of a small African nation to call it.

The British Consulate Paris website says my husband can renew his passport while in the UK if he makes an appointment through the Passport Advice Line. The telephone number 044 (0)300 222 0000 is given. This number is NOT available if you phone it from France therefore I am looking for a direct dial number through which I can reach the Passport Adviceline.

Mme VLiF

Clear enough isn't it?

So several hours later I received another reply.....

Dear Sir/Madame,

Thank you for your enquiry

As the Adviceline number is only for people applying for passports within the UK they do not have a phone number for international use.

If you need to call from outside the UK you could try dialling the UK dialling code in front of the number, if that does not work you could also try calling using a mobile instead of a landlines.

Thank you.
Customer service e-mail team

No phone number for international use? What about the one on the Directgov website? And putting the UK dialling code in front of the number? Well dress me in flippers and call me a herring... I'd NEVER have thought of that!

So I replied.....

Well perhaps you would like to tell the British Consulate in Paris this!

The following is cut and pasted from their website:

Applying for a passport in the UK

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) deals with all passport applications for UK residents living in Britain.

However, if you are resident overseas, but are visiting the UK, you can also renew your passport during your trip.

To renew your passport while you are in the UK, you need to make an appointment to do this in person with the Identity and Passport Services (IPS).

And this is from the DirectGov website:

If you do not live in the UK, you can apply in person to renew your passport while visiting the UK. To do this you need to call the IPS Passport Adviceline on +44 (0)300 222 0000 to make an appointment at a Regional Passport Office. You must also provide an address in the UK to which IPS can post the new passport.Clearly one or other of you is wrong and does not know their job. I therefore repeat my request, please provide me with a number that can be dialled from this one does not work.

I await their next response.


Anonymous said...

Ah, brilliant - bureaucracy at its best! So much for joined up government.

@eloh said...

Government there any more evidence needed that this is a small world and we are but one people.

Working Mum said...

Damn those government agencies. I have had ongoing correspondence with them for four years now (yes, four YEARS) trying to tell them that I DO NOT WANT TO CLAIM TAX CREDITS. Every year they send me forms which I send back, they threaten me, I write back, they tell me they're not giving me any money, I write back, they threaten to take back the £0.00 they've given me, I write back and so it goes on!

Anonymous said...

Nightmare and mine expires in 2010 too.


(Very) Lost in France said...

CA - They have finally blamed the French (no change there then!) and said they haven't activated something on their international something or other and it could take up to 18 months but they will make a note of it on their website. Hooray! VLiF

@eloh - ain't that the truth! VLiF

WM - well I'll take yours then! I applied for them months ago and have been passed from pillar to post. No wonder I didn't bother before! VLiF

(Very) Lost in France said...

NWbD - better apply for it now! VLiF