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Old 16.06.2009, 12:23
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UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

Grrr - I am not one to rant and rave over things (as a rule although my husband will probably disagree), but I have just had the most ridiculous conversation with somone regarding my passport application that I had to let off some steam.

As most UK passport holders will know, we now have to send our renewal applications to Paris (along with folks in the Netherlands, Brussels, Italy, Malta and Monaco!) as they no longer offer this service in Switzerland.

I did as instructed on the website and sent all our documents and the form authorising them to debit more than 130euro from my account (because there is now a 20+euro fee for returning the passport by courier!) and waited over 10 days (the official processing time) to get our passport back.

Now it is not an urgent matter in that we have no immediate plans to go abroad, but after the 10 days have passed I had become concerned that perhaps our passport had not made it to the consulate at all (given the nice girl at the post office made me put a big sticker on it saying a passport was enclosed!!!!). So I went on the consulate website looking for an email address to send a message to asking for them to confirm they have received our application and it was just taking a bit longer. No such email address exists that I could find (as it did when the passports were previously procesed in Geneva) and I was directed to Careline.

Careline in my case was a rather bitter sarcastic cow based in Scotland who charged my credit card 69p per minute (min call length 4 mins) to tell me she had no idea where my passport was and that if I wished to find out I should call my credit card company to see if the card had been debited the processing fee. When I countered back this wasn't exactly the service I expected for paying around 3gbp she just grunted down the phone. Suffice to say I was just about hopping mad at this point.

So against my better principles, I hunkered down and made another expensive international call to a hideously convoluted automated system and upshot is that my credit card company did indeed know more about the status of my passport application than the official passport office care line and I am guesing from the fact it took them more than 2 week to even get around to starting processing it that anyone looking to apply is in for a long wait this summer...

I will sit tight and await my couriered passport (wonder if DHL will add duty given its inherant value?!) and pass on my cautionary tale

Last edited by maxhd; 16.06.2009 at 13:42. Reason: euro not gbp!
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Old 16.06.2009, 12:44
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

Doesn't bode well does it? If you weren't happy with the response you got from Careline then I'd have no hesitation sending in an email complaining. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office invite feedback and complaints about Careline's telephone enquiry service so they must have been aware that outsourcing this could be a problem. The address is on this site at the bottom of the page:

http://ukinfrance.fco.gov.uk/en/passports/

In all likelihood the calls are taped so quote the date and time of your call if you can. If folks don't complain things won't get better. I'd sock it to 'em. I hate having to deal with call centres. What's the point calling a call centre to resolve a problem when 9 times out of 10 they are the problem. But that's a different rant I guess!
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Old 16.06.2009, 12:46
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

crap, my passport is due for renewal soon. When did geneva stop?
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Old 16.06.2009, 12:53
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

I fear you made 2 grave errors:

Firstly, to rely on a timescale given by a French agency as being in any way accurate, it takes them more than 10 days to remove the dog merde from the Parisienne pavement to allow access.

Second, was to speak to a Scot about an English problem, she was not grunting at you, but panting from the exersion of dancing on her desk at being able to rub the "auld enemy" up the wrong way, while awaiting delivery of her deep fried Mars bars for lunch.

I had to go through this process, but having lived in France for too long realised that it was not going to go as stated, and sure enough it took them 3 weeks, but don't worry, there is no duty as it's fees you are paying, the passport itself has no value.
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Old 16.06.2009, 13:44
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

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crap, my passport is due for renewal soon. When did geneva stop?
As of 1st Jan this year they shut the Geneva processing service - those nice people who answered mails and spoke to you in person about your application and yes... sent it back within 10 days :-(
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Old 16.06.2009, 14:28
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

We had a very similar experience with our 3 month old daughter which resulted in us losing flights, which we accept was at our risk. Our experience:

First Application rejected due to photo being too bright
New photo taken and posted with application on the 17th March 2009
Arrived in Passport office on 23rd March 2009 (recorded delivery)
Money taken 31st March 2009
Passport arrived 6th April

The frustrating thing was that on Friday 3rd April they told me it had not been started, yet it arrived at our flat on Monday 6th, work that out!!

Having spoken to the Embassy in Bern they admit it is not going well, hopefully they will review it.

One key point for all is that the 10 day processing time is from when they start working on it, which (If I remember correctly) is 1 day before the money is taken. Our application sat for quite some time in the office before it was started!!

As for the Geneva number you call (charged at crazy price per minute) I wouldn`t bother as they couldn`t tell us anything new as I was aware money had been taken. All they do is look on a screen to say if it is being processed, which frankly just means the 10 days has started.

Hope this helps you or others applying for a passport.




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Old 17.06.2009, 12:39
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

Is it any faster/less grief if one flies back to the UK to renew our passports?

Anyone any experience / advice to share?

Regards
10pixels
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Old 17.06.2009, 13:10
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

Maybe this thread is of help?

UK Passport renewal
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Old 17.06.2009, 13:14
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

The postal service is fine, just don't leave it to close to the expiry of your old passport, as the timelines are way off.
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Old 17.06.2009, 20:43
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

I'm guessing that the majority of passport renewals are fine, but the question is what percentage don't go smoothly. Getting my passport renewed has never been smooth, it seems whatever the FCO do, they are not going to get it right anytime soon. One thing that is guaranteed is that the prices will continue to go up.

Having said that, I renewed earlier this year by post in Paris. I was a little worried about the process so tried phoning before seeing the cost. So I complained by e-mail instead and got a human on the other end who answered all the questions (for free).

My passport arrived back minimum fuss in about 2 weeks.
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Old 17.06.2009, 20:55
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

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I'm guessing that the majority of passport renewals are fine, but the question is what percentage don't go smoothly. Getting my passport renewed has never been smooth, it seems whatever the FCO do, they are not going to get it right anytime soon. One thing that is guaranteed is that the prices will continue to go up.

Having said that, I renewed earlier this year by post in Paris. I was a little worried about the process so tried phoning before seeing the cost. So I complained by e-mail instead and got a human on the other end who answered all the questions (for free).

My passport arrived back minimum fuss in about 2 weeks.
Who did you email? as the only address I saw was for bloody Careline customer services which specifically said they were unable to answer questions relating to applications. On the consulate website in red print it states they will not respond to email enquiries about applications so I was stumped as to what I could actually do besides use that useless premium rate service!
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Old 17.06.2009, 20:55
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

I have to renew the children's passports soon and I'm not looking forward to getting this done. Last time I had dealings with the HM Gummint it was in Germany and the Düsseldorf Consulate. I phoned to get some information from them and landed in a convulted "press one for salt, press two for pepper, 3 for vinegar, 4 for ketchup etc etc". This device was some of Möbius Band as no matter number you selected you where then invited into a sub menu "press 1 for this, press 2 for that etce" and eventually you ended landing back up a level with the "press one for salt" crap starting all over again. Needless to say, none of the options were what I needed, I needed to talk a human being. In desperation I then thought hang on - the service line number is +123 4567 or whatever, how about I change the last number up or down one, maybe it'll still land in the Gummint office - I tried this and it worked! I ended up sepaking to a very helpful guy who managed to sort out the problem very quickly. When I thanked him and told him about the saga with the help line he just told me "Don't bother with that system, it's useless, call me on this number if you need help again" - Brilliant service
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Old 17.06.2009, 21:32
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

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Is it any faster/less grief if one flies back to the UK to renew our passports?

Anyone any experience / advice to share?

Regards
10pixels
I needed to get a new passport last March and after phoning Geneva was told by the guy there (who was very helpful ) that I would probably be cheaper and quicker if I flew back to Scotland and did it personally. I would also end up with my passport in my sweaty little hand on the day.
I duly booked a flight with Ryanair from Basel to Dublin, spent the day in Dublin doing retail therapy and then caught a flight on to Prestwick where I stayed the night at my cousin's. We both had more retail therapy in Glasgow the following day before I went for my interview at the passport office, where I passed over my form had it stamped and was told return four hours later to pick it up.
Went back.....got a smile from the guy behind the desk and walked out with passport. Result!
Met cousin again for dinner and a few sherries, flew from Prestwick to Dublin on a late flight and slept on a couch at Dublin airport until my 6 o'clock flight back to Basel.

I realise this is not the ideal solution for most people.....the cheapness depends on being able to fly from Basel and also a cousin or two on the east coast of Scotland comes in handy.
I think the total cost of my flights was about £20......retail therapy came in slighter more expensive....and I also paid a wee bit more to get my passport on the day.

I would reccomend it though....you can't beat getting your documents there and then. So long as you make sure you've got your documents filled in properly (get someone to send you over a couple of copies beforehand....friendly cousin again) , it should be a doddle.

One thing I would mention though is that you must be able to give an address in GB that's supposed to be where you live, and supply something (bill etc) with that address on it. I was able to use my old house address and they didn't bat an eyelid.

Good luck if you decide to go down that route......perhaps my friendly cousin could become a go-between for passport seeking ex-pats?
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Old 18.06.2009, 15:25
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

Looking at all the issues that UK passport holders are facing with their own country, I feel tempted to add a cautionary tale of my own-that of a non-EU passport holder applying for the UK visa. For those brave enough to try, be forewarned and prepared for an arduous journey as I would recommend this only to people who are capable to complete the full ironman competition or those who can survive waterboarding techniques of the CIA.

Me and my family faced numerous issues in this lifetime adventure that ranged from spending hours navigating through their buggy online form system ,dealing with an agency partner called Worldbridge in Zurich who couldn't even articulate on phone what kind of supporting documents we needed to take for our appointment, being turned off from their service centre in Zurich because it turned out that due to a system error we had ended up filling up the wrong form ( try telling them it was not our fault and we didn't design the system) and blatant extortion-within one month April 2009 to May 2009, the price of a 10 year multiple entry visa went up from 350 CHF per person to 850 CHF per person- Just for comparison US embassy charges 157.40 CHF for issuing a visa of the same duration. To add insult to injury, when we finally decided all this was not worth it and we would like to get our visa fee refunded, we were told that we would have to write a letter to the UK embassy in Geneva explaining why we would not like to proceed with our application and wait at least 8 weeks to know if we would get a refund or not.

After all this we realised that changing our easyjet tickets from Basel-London to Basel-Prague was a cakewalk. Sometimes it helps to have some perspective in life !!
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Old 18.06.2009, 17:46
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

A friend of mine applied and after hearing nothing rang them. They said it had been dispatched via DHL. He rang them (in Lyon, nearest office to Geneva) and they said they had tried to deliver it but failed to find the address, so were waiting until they had another delivery for the area! Unbelievable.
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Old 06.09.2010, 16:50
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Return of original documentation

(Dont want to start a new thread so hopefully fine to ask the question in this thread)

I am applying for a passport for my son (4 weeks old) and have to send a bunch of original documentation. The document I am most reluctant tro send is my UK Naturalisation Certificate of which I have only 1. (Certified copies are not allowed)

Do they return original documents to you? Has anyone had any experience of returning original documentation they wish to share? Is it possible to ask them to return the documentation with the passport?

Thanks
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Old 06.09.2010, 16:52
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Re: Return of original documentation

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(Dont want to start a new thread so hopefully fine to ask the question in this thread)

I am applying for a passport for my son (4 weeks old) and have to send a bunch of original documentation. The document I am most reluctant tro send is my UK Naturalisation Certificate of which I have only 1. (Certified copies are not allowed)

Do they return original documents to you? Has anyone had any experience of returning original documentation they wish to share? Is it possible to ask them to return the documentation with the passport?

Thanks
First off, congratulations.

Secondly, they should and will return copies of your documents.

Thirdly, if you are unsure, get it in writing from someone there - they are usually responsive to queries.
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Old 06.09.2010, 16:55
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

Another place you can do this in person is Newport in S.Wales. While waiting for your application to be processed you can hang around drinking Brains and trying to spot members of Goldie Lookin Chain.
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Old 06.09.2010, 17:11
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

I actually sent my old passport to my mother who lives in the UK. She then took it to her local post office where they checked the photo was correct and then chose the express service. Seven days later she received the new passport. I think I paid just over 70 pounds for this so a bit of money was saved.

I have an Australian passport as well so I travelled on that to pick up the UK passport, rather than have it sent back by post (I had to make a visit in any case). It was comical when I arrived at airport as the guy asked me if I intended to work in the UK and asked me where I was born and then asked me again if I intended to work in the UK. My Australian passport states my place of birth and the name of that town is not used anywhere else in the world so I thought he may have asked why I did not have a UK passport but after filling in a form, I was allowed on my way to my shiny new UK passport.

I guess that second paragraph was slightly off-topic...
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Old 06.09.2010, 18:27
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Re: UK Passport office in France - a cautionary tale

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I actually sent my old passport to my mother who lives in the UK. She then took it to her local post office where they checked the photo was correct and then chose the express service.
Can I ask the obvious:
Did you use your Mother's UK address on the Application Forms instead of stating that you live in Switzerland?

Not being pedantic, but isn't that techically dodgy - but thanks for giving me the idea of doing it!
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