10 October 2014

Red Tape

There are many things I love about life as an Expat but bureaucracy is not one of them and several bureaucratic issues have come up this week. 

Usually bureaucracy is related to the host nation - I recall the hassles getting our Nigerian multiple entry visas when I was a child (until then our passports filled at an alarming rate with multiple 30 day visas, one each holiday visit).  I remember my Father having to get a certified translation of his (Latin) degree certificate when we went to Venezuela.  Kazakhstan was a nightmare - everything (literally everything) had to be notarised and apostilled.  This week the bureaucratic issue have been 'back home'.  

Our older two kids got their student visas back today.  Our son’s runs to then end of the school year when it can be renewed fairly easily.  Our daughter’s passport, however, runs out just before the end of term and the visa expires one month before that so we will have to renew it ahead of time – either by post or going back to the UK and arranging a one day appointment.


We also have to arrange a passport for our new baby as, at the moment, she is in Malaysia on just her birth certificate and we cannot go anywhere, in fact, we are still not sure if we can go elsewhere in Malaysia with just her birth certificate as Sarawak has separate passport control to the rest of the country.  We would like to have some weekend trips so we are trying to sort that out at the moment (the airlines say yes but to check with immigration).

Anyway we made enquiries with the Embassy before she was born and we were told it was a simple online process.  I assumed this would mean that my Husband’s passport and birth certificate details would be verified electronically and we could email a photograph and countersignature verified by the Embassy staff, the passport would be prepared and then sent to us. 

If only it were that simple.  We completed the application form and paid the (exhorbitant) fee only to find that we have to send the passport and supporting documents by mail.  Our passports are very necessary here in Malaysia – my husband travels to the Peninsula approximately once a month and we need it for identification if we go to the bank or even collect something from customs at the post office.  We are calling to check what we should do – we doubt we can use mine as parental ID as I am not a British Citizen.  It would be so much easier to just go to the embassy in KL or over the border in Brunei – this online process is meant to be easy but I suspect it boils down to cost cutting.  Still it is easier than renewing my passport last year – I had to go to Moscow to make the application as the documents never reached me in Kazakhstan (and no way was I entrusting my passport to a courier service that looses application forms).

Before we went to Kazakhstan I stocked up on copy birth certificates for my husband and the children as well as our marriage certificate.  I have only one copy of mine – my uncle tells me that Dutch certificates must be applied for in person so I will have to wait until we visit The Hague again to get more copies.  I am quite meticulous about keeping copies but somehow although we have many copies of my middle daughter’s birth and our marriage certificate we have managed to run out of our son and my husband’s birth certificates.  We used the last copies to get working/student visas here.  So we have to get certificates sent to Malaysia before we can send them back to the UK – crazy!  The UK does all the road tax renewals document checks on line so why not this?

It will all get sorted with time – the frustrating thing is not knowing when we can travel as a family again.  In the meantime there are worse places in the world to be stuck!
Seychelles Mama

Update November 2014

After some unhelpful email correspondence (which directed us back to the website which did not answer our questions) we spoke with a very helpful lady in the UK.  Apparently the passport office will accept a full copy (front, back and every page) of my husband's passport together with a letter explaining why we did not include the original.  We do not have to have the copy certified.  We can send off for our older daughter's renewal at the same time and they will (apparently) process and return them together.  Thank you Lorraine in the Passport Office for being so kind, understanding and practical.  It just shows that technology can be helpful but you can't beat the human touch!

Click on the picture for more information on the challenges of expat life.

Ersatz Expat

14 comments:

  1. Argh Bureaucracy!!!! Its such a nightmare, but sounds particularly bad where you are!
    I think its got to be one of the most annoying things about being an expat!
    When we applied for Arthur's passport we had to send off ours too and that was terrifying! I mean putting something as important as that in the post just gives me a sick feeling! My husband lost his wallet the other day, his british driving licence was in it and we found out that he can't apply for another one while we are living out of the country, so we just have to hope that wherever we go his Seychelles one will be accepted. If not I guess I drive everywhere :(
    I wish you the best of luck with it all, hope its as fast and as pain free as possible!!!
    Thanks so much for linking up for #myexpatfamily

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    1. Ouch - horrible to loose a driving licence. Sounds like you will be the main driver for a while!

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  2. I'm not looking forward to the point any of our passports need renewed... Bureaucracy is such a nightmare! Definitely up there with the worst thins about being an expat! #myexpatfamily

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    1. It truly is - still so many good things I guess there have to be a few negatives along the way!

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  3. Oh I hate red tape and admin - it all gets so complicated and takes up so much time. I renewed my passport just before we emigrated last month and then had the hassle of trying to find the forms to link my new passport to our electronic visa - it was a nightmare! I was lucky I had a good migration agent who showed me a quick and easy way to do it without having to post things from the UK to Australia. Good luck sorting it out - I hope it doesn't take up hours of your time. x

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    1. THat sounds like a nightmare. We were lucky with the KZ visas - they were paper based so we just had to travel with both the old and the new passports.

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  4. urgh, I agree it must be the worst thing about being an expat. I have to apply for my daughter's first British passport as soon as possible and have to send all the documents by post, we have to get certified translations of documents that are in Spanish, and I don't know what to do about the countersignatory - I don't know anyone here who meets the requirements. I'm wondering if I can get a friend in the UK to countersign, is that allowed?
    Good luck to all of us with the paperwork!

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    1. No idea re the countersignatory - you may be able to get the consulate to ID her/you - that is what the Irish Embassy did for me in Moscow. Years ago I renewed a passport in Venezuela and got a countersignatory there - the papers were not processed so I brought them back to the UK and sent them to the embassy there - they asked me to get another countersignatory as they would not accept a Venezuelan one for a renewal through the UK embassy. That could just be Ireland though.

      We would have had the same issue with the countersignatory except for the fact that several of my husband's colleagues moved from KZ to MY at the same time as us.

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  5. Red tape really is one of the most awful parts of being a global family. When my husband (British-Brazilian) and I (Belgian) got married it took us MONTHS to sort everything out, mostly because no systems seemed to be able to deal with the fact we were a mixed nationality couple living in a third country (Italy). You'd think that, with so much migration going on these days, they add a few boxes to their forms to allow for these situations...
    Hope you get your daughter's passport sorted soon. I dread the day we have to renew our son's. I expect that will mean a trip down to Rome. Although I guess there are worse places to visit, too :-)

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    1. That does sound like a nightmare - if you are anything out of the ordinary you are out of luck with bureaucracy! Good luck with the renewal - at least Rome is a fun destination.

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  6. Red tape - such hard work! We are trying to get our kids dual citizenship with the UK but apparently they don't recognize it? We've been told do many different things! My passport is due for renewal next year so a trip home for that and hopefully we can get things sorted.

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    1. Claire - good luck. As far as I know the UK does allow dual citizenship (though some countries like Malaysia don't which is why we have not even tried to get a Malaysian passport for our new baby). My stepmother has a Canadian and a UK passport and I was going to get a UK one (we left before I could sort it out).

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  7. I'm sorry to hear things have been so stressful! I really hope they work themselves out quickly!

    Also, I'm taking personal notes about your journey so I don't suffer through the same things. Thank you, you're helping others more than you realise!

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    1. Thanks Stacey for your very kind comment.

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