Friday, March 05, 2010

Applying for a UK passport in USA

Twice in the past few years I've had to apply for a British passport while in USA. Once for my daughter and once for myself. There are several reasons why I didn't do both at the same time, but it boils down to the fact that I ran into a couple of difficulties that also seem to apply to other people, according to numerous posts around the internet.

The number 1 issue seems to be Getting the Passport Photo

UK passport photos are smaller than US ones, so you can't always just walk into your local photo shop/ photo booth and walk out with a passport-ready pic. After much searching, I did discover that Walgreens Photo can help out! For $7.99 for 2 photos, they take your photograph, upload it to a machine and then, when processing, they can select UK passport as an option.

UK standards are pretty strict on size and how much space must be taken up with face etc etc. Luckily the screen has 2 big ovals as guides so you can zoom in and out with the image to get it to the right size.
Unfortunately, Walgreens wouldn't cut it to size so I had to do that myself.

There are a few online services, such as Snapfish.com and epassportphoto.com where you can upload a photo (following guidelines on pose and background etc) and they will mail the correct size passport photos to you.

Issue 2: The countersignature
What a nightmare! The C1 form notes state that someone must sign the photo and application form, and that they must a) have known you for 2 years, b) be a British citizen, c) be of professional standing and d) not be a family member.

That's pretty tough when living abroad, especially if living in a new place. Luckily, there are some allowances to be made.
For passport renewals or name changes, adults only need to get the countersignature if your appearance has significantly changed (example, through surgery or tattoos). In fact, in those circumstances they state you should get a new passport anyway, even if it's not due for renewal. [Ref: Passport photos and who can certify them ]

For children under 16, it states "if the appearance of a child under 16 has changed due simply to the normal ageing process, they do not have to apply for a new passport."

For new passports , example for children or new citizens, you will need the countersignature.


For my daughter's countersignature, we didn't know anyone who met the requirements of British professional who'd known her for 2 years. After a call to the Passport office, I was told that her school Principal would be sufficient, and to change British Citizen to American Citizen on the relevant section of the form.


Name change for traveling

Before I had the chance to change my passport to reflect my married name, I had to book a flight back home for a funeral. After much to-ing and fro-ing, I traveled with my passport in maiden name, my greencard in married name and my marriage certificate. I didn't have any problems either entering the UK or returning to USA; I just kept all documents together to help explain. However, the UK passport office do state the name on your passport should be the same as your legal name, so I would not recommend doing what I did without verifying first!

For more information on UK Passport applications within USA, visit:

 





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