Friday, March 18, 2011
Expat joys: passport renewal
Image courtesy of Flickr: Ho John Lee
One of the cruel jokes that the US government and its worldwide counterparts have devised to play on us unsuspecting tourists is passport validity. My passport is technically valid until July 18th of this year, but most countries in Europe require that it be valid for three months after the date of entry into that country and many others require 6 month validity. So technically, from April 18th I can't travel on the damn thing unless I'm going back to the US. Which, funnily enough, I am - on April 14th for my friend's wedding and the Passover and Easter holidays. So in my infinite planning wisdom, I decided to wait to renew my passport until my return to the UK.
Fast forward to the new job, new client and new project, and now I may have to go to Prague in the middle of May. So I checked the embassy website for passport renewal processing times - 15 working days - and did the math to realize that waiting until I returned from the US wasn't such a smart idea. But as of yesterday, there were 20 working days until I leave for the US... so I crossed my fingers and sent it off. I dashed into Snappy Snaps for some of the worst photographs of myself at the exorbitant rate of £12.99 for 2 photographs, and paid a courier service £25.50 for the pleasure of taking my application to the embassy and returning it to me (hopefully before 5pm on April 14th when I have to leave for Heathrow). Add those charges to the $110 passport renewal free, and I just spent about £100 in the space of an hour - all to renew my most important identity document THAT IS STILL VALID FOR 4 MONTHS. I wish I could get a prorated discount refunding me for the time left on the document. I know, I know, stop laughing but I think it's only fair.
Add to this the fact that my visa is in what will now be a cancelled passport. The UK government strongly suggests that I send my new passport to them so they can transfer the visa sticker into the new book - for the princely price of £200! It is legal to carry both the old, cancelled passport with the visa sticker in it as well as the new passport, so that is what I will be doing. I've already donated enough of my post-tax earnings to the Border Agency; as much as I love have stamps and visas and stickers in my passport, none of them are worth that much financial pain.