Jen finally got round to applying for a British passport a few weeks ago. Henceforward she will enter Australia with her Australian passport, and the UK with her British passport. All according to plan. It took her a couple of goes at the forms and associated bits and pieces to get them right, but luckily the Post Office offers a Check and Send service and bungs it all back at you if you’ve messed up. Frustrating, but it saves a lot of hassle in the long run.
But the forms went off in the end. Last Friday her green Oz passport came back – so she’d be able to catch her flight, anyway. By the same post arrived a rather scruffy letter from the Passport Office, thanking her for her application and telling her that as part of the process she is ‘required’ to attend an interview.
This last-ditch attempt to be just that little bit more annoying is ‘an important part of our commitment to help reduce identity fraud’. Questions will be asked ‘that someone trying to steal your identity would not know’, although how the official would know that this someone wouldn’t know it is mysterious. Public and private-sector databases will be searched, including credit reference agencies. These would be the same agencies that practically never get anything wrong, presumably. ‘The questions we asked will not be the same at every interview,’ so no cribbing from the bloke in front of you in the queue.
If you miss the interview and fail to give 24 hours’ notice, your application is withdrawn and you have to start again – and write another cheque. You must arrive 10 minutes early for a pre-interview interview; if you arrive more than 10 minutes before the appointed time, you will be sent away. If you’re late you ‘may’ be sent away. If you fail the pre-interview interview – if, for instance, you have no idea who you are, or you don’t look anything like the photo that has been countersigned by someone who claims to know you – you can’t have a post-pre-interview interview.
If you do make it to the actual interview and all goes swimmingly, you still won’t be told on the spot that your application has been approved, because they still ‘need to carry out some final checks’.
I suppose that once upon a time round some long shiny table in Whitehall a bunch of functionaries cooked all this up and it made some kind of sense to the bureaucratic mind. ‘Supposing x happens, we’d better make sure y is in place’ ... that sort of thing. Presumably, they can’t in the end deny Jen her passport, because she is now a UK citizen. But they can make her jump through a few more hoops – and relieve her of quite a few more of our Great British Pounds.
So off she goes to Plymouth next Saturday morning for yet another appointment with destiny. She’d better not be late. Or early.