Exactly one week ago my boyfriend of 6 years broke up with me.
We had recently planned a week long trip to Amsterdam starting from tomorrow, hotel booked and flights checked in. Seeing as that obviously wasn’t going to happen anymore I decided to be impulsive and buy a plane ticket to Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt to visit my brother (who is a diving instructor out there).
The problem was, I only had 3 months left on my passport.
In case any of you were wondering, for countries in the European Union you can travel with a soon-to-expire passport as long as your return flight is before the end date (therefore this would have been fine for me in Amsterdam). For other countries there is a list here which if you select your country of choice and then ‘Entry Requirements’, will allow you to see the minimum validity you will need on your passport to enter.
In my position, the FO (Foreign Office) wants passengers to travel to Egypt with at least 6 months left on their passport. I arrived back in the UK (from a visit to my father in Barcelona) on Thursday and had 4 days to get a new passport.
The first thing to do is to get on the phone to the Passport Advice Line (0300 222 0000). I called at 8am on Friday morning and got a Saturday appointment for 9.15am. Next is a trip to the Post Office to get an application form. Now I have to say, I do like filling in forms, but this was the most complicated one I’d ever encountered. There were so many conditions and poorly worded questions that they even have to provide a 30 page booklet telling you how to fill it in!
Once you’ve done this, there is the arduous task of taking the perfect passport picture – after all this is going to be for 10 years! I found out there were some new regulations which meant I couldn’t cover my ears, which for me (thick, long, dark hair) was pretty difficult. But I got there in the end. Next job is to take one of these pictures to a friend or neighbour who has known you for over 3 years so you can get get one signed by them to confirm you are who you are.
Things To Take With You
1. Expiring passport
2. Two passport photos (one signed)
3. Application form
4. Reference number (quoted to you once you have booked an appointment)
(5. I also took my birth certificate in case of any problems but didn’t need to use it in the end)
So on Saturday morning I set off at 7.30am to Victoria to attend my appointment. You do not want to be late. But on the other hand you also don’t want to be early. You need to be there exactly 15 minutes before your appointment to be able to get through security (a bit like an airport – taking off your belt, emptying your pockets etc, obviously don’t take any sharp object that could be deemed dangerous) in time. Once I was through security I handed over my reference number (remember to take this with you) to a receptionist who handed me a small bit of paper with a number on it. I climbed two sets of stairs and found myself in the largest waiting room I have every seen. Think doctors surgery but 10 times the size. Neutral walls, metal chairs, lots of people but nobody talking. Scary. After about 20 minutes of waiting, in which I read my Kindle (Bridget Jones – Mad About The Boy in case anyone was interested) and tried not to squeal with the awkwardness of the situation, My number was called and I made my way to counter 24. A very lovely man served me and I handed over my old passport, my application form, and my two photos (one signed). Five minutes later I was in the queue for the cashiers desk to pay the £128. Once I’d done this, I received another small receipt which meant 4 hours later I could turn up to pick up my new passport.
I dawdled on Oxford Street and went to Comptoir for a takeaway Lebanese to take back to my apartment, and waited for my passport to be manufactured.
At precisely 1.43pm I was back at the Passport Office in Victoria. The collection point is right round the corner from the appointment area and all I did was fill out a little blue slip and handed this and my receipt over, and voilà, I had my new identity… only kidding. When you go, make sure you check the passport before you leave for any mistakes as you don’t want to be turning up at the airport to find out they’ve made you 10 years older or changed your name!
Overall the daunting experience turned out to be pretty painless, and although waiting around in central for 4 hours when I’d rather have been at home packing was a bit annoying, I was home by 3pm!
The service I used was the ‘Premier’ service, and although it made the passport more expensive it means I get to travel on Tuesday with no doubt as to whether I’ll be allowed onto my flight!
I’m sorry if this was an exceptionally boring post but when I was trawling the internet trying to find out how to get out of my sticky situation I felt there was nothing apart from what the FO says to help me (apart from some pretty vague Guardian articles). I wanted to share my experience and I hope this helps at least one person!