Thursday, 22 March 2007

New UK passport rules forget expats

Whist the new 200 question interview will not apply to anyone who already has a passport and, since expats must already necessarily have a passport, at least we escape from that piece of prying, but I don't think the new rules for issuing UK passports have given expats any consideration whatsoever.

The whole thing is laughable, in my view, because a determined terrorist, trained in subversive behaviour, is probably going to be much better at "acting" through the 200 questions than most honest folk.

The main problem for expats is that, presumably, from 2009, when everyone applying for a passport - either their first or a renewal - will need to attend one of the new centres to have their fingerprints taken - will mean that we will have to go to our nearest British Embassy or Consulate to do this. They don't say that, but I cannot think of another way that they will tackle this.

Currently, we can do it by post. In fact, I haven't yet seen any news report that mentions expats, how we will be affected or be supposed to deal with these rules. If what I assume is right, it's all very well, if the Embassy or Consulate is within easy reach and one is in a state of health that makes it possible to attend. The difference being that, if someone in the UK isn't fit enough to attend the centers, they're probably not going to want a passport.

However, if an expat is already abroad, they are obliged to keep their passport up to date, whatever their state of health or circumstances.

The ID cards are something I am not that keen on either, but I've become used to the idea after living in Spain. But, because the ID card is compulsory in Spain, for instance - for everyone, irregardless of whether they wish to travel or not - then the Spanish authorities make provisions to visit the homes of the old and infirm to renew their documents. This provision, clearly, is not even considered within the British system, even in Britain, and, it would absolutely need to be to make passport renewals possible for many retired expats.

They are bringing in these rules because, around 10,000 bogus passports are issued each year. That's a drop in the ocean, not to mention that it is through their own inefficiency. However, it's estimated that one in ten Britons now live abroad, which means there must be in excess of five million of us, who could be effectively shafted, cut off and ignored by our own country, because of these rules. I call that an injustice. 200 questions to get your passport

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