Guest Editor – AV - I have had a harrowing experience while renewing my passport in India early last year, which I have detailed in my post – The Great Indian Passport Saga. In fact, I have had pretty bad experiences every time I have been to the Passport Office in India, or Indian Embassies abroad. True, being an Indian, it’s a pity that I have no good words to write about the services. Last week, when my good friend, who for some reason doesn’t want to be named for the post found that he was running out on time on his Passport, I was devilishly pleased (in a nice way), for I had someone who was treading the thorny path to where I had already been. For the purposes of this post, let’s call this good friend AV. Here’s his account of the Passport Renewal Saga and some seriously simple tips to help in renewing the passport easily and quickly.
Let me be brutally honest with you, getting a new passport is going to be tough – especially, if it means making a trip to the Indian High Commission in London! Passport re-issue, as it’s called, is what one has to apply for when one has no clue where the last ten years went. That was exactly what happened to me earlier this month when I realised that this book, that I had initially bought as an essential tool to write SAT, TOEFL, GMAT, CAT, BRAT (note: this one is fictitious), GRE etc., has a validity of ten years and was due to expire soon. The good news is I have now got my new passport; the bad news is, it wasn’t easy. Getting to the point – here are some pointers and crucial insights into how you can get your new passport without getting (too) stressed out.
TOP TEN – I’ve narrowed it down to ten. Its an easy number.
- Make enough copies. This isn’t an exam – copying is allowed, especially if it’s photocopying. You need copies of the front page, back page and your ‘current UK residential status’ page of your passport. One copy should do. If you’re one of those you-can-never-be-too-careful sorts, make two. I made three.
- Recent photograph means recent photograph. You need four recent passport sized photographs and if you’re in the passport office, they are just called photographs. Remember the number is FOUR. Ensure you don’t have to use those dodgy do-it-yourself photo machines in the consulate as they don’t work. Again, I tried to beat the system by submitting ‘slightly’ old photos but the lady behind the counter (fresh from her recent visit to the cinema to watch Sherlock Holmes) noticed that my last three Schengen visas, which were well over two years old, had the same photos. I then had to battle that machine and ended printing three sets of pictures, one of them mine. The first two, of people I’ve never seen before.
- Always Ask. If you’re in this room (picture below) and not sure where the queue starts or stops, ask. Go to the counter and ask. Any counter. The word is re-issue and not renewal as the latter is what you do when your passport is valid for five years or if your passport is expired, lost or stolen. If you speak Malayalam, even better, I’m not joking.
- Enough food, water, books. Always ensure you have enough food and water with you and books (technology freaks can use those i-things). There is no restriction on carrying phones but there is a catch – no network coverage in the basement where you will be waiting. It’s not called INDIAN High Commission for nothing.
- A couple of hours aren’t going to do it. If you’re planning on queuing up at around 8:00am and hoping to be back at work at 11:00am, you can forget about it. The lucky ones do, but the majority of us will have to wait longer, and, this is just to submit the passport. Again, this can take from two hours to six hours so be prepared with that text to the boss saying you are not going to be in the office until 2:00 pm. Collecting it is less stressful – between one and two hours, in the afternoons a few days later. (BTW collection is usually between 3:30pm and 4:30pm)
- Get aggressive. If you have picked up any English mannerisms, such as holding the door open, being courteous, queuing up obediently, I suggest you leave it outside the consulate as it will not help you secure your objective. Even some British nationals who were waiting for their visas soon realised their Blighty way of life wasn’t working and I saw one middle aged woman step on a sardar’s foot to take that one last seat in the room. If your number hasn’t been called or you’re not sure of what’s going on, make sure you ask someone. Information on the website is not comprehensive.
- CASH. Keep loads of it. You may be asked to fill up additional forms if your signatures are different, if your spouse has threatened you to change your surname, if they just want you to fill up additional ones etc. you will have to cough up some extra cash. Seriously, keep enough change and remember – no credit/debit cards!
- Ensure you’ve taken the token. That’s it with this point.
- Checklist. There are not a lot of things to remember but here is a summary of what I’ve been going on about. 4 photographs. One filled in form. One passport. One copy of the passport. Food. Cash. Now the chronology of events – queue outside to collect your token. Once collected, enter the building and wait for your number to be called and have everything ready. Submit it (this bit is important). Collect your receipt which will tell you the time and date to collect your passport. Go back and collect it (this is also important).
- Enjoy. If you haven’t been to India in a while, this will be your mini India experience. Don’t stress yourself. Enjoy it. Imagine people from your home town’s RTO office or electricity board or even members of your local post office in India have been told to re-locate to the UK and hand out passports to NRIs who are doing the NR bit, yes go on imagine it – close your eyes…..aaahhh now THAT will be your passport experience in the UK.
Thanks dude for the post! Finally to add, the Indian High Commission in London is at
Indian High Commission
Phone: 020 7836 8484
Other consulates in the UK are at Birmingham, Belfast & Edinburgh. Check the website for details. Also, for Passport Renewal, make sure you download a passport renewal form and fill it as required before you head to the embassy.