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back to article ID and Passport Service uncloaks 2012 online plans

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) is to introduce a new online passport application service in early 2012 in an effort to improve its interactions with customers. In its business plan for 2011-12 (28-page PDF/2.2MB), the IPS says that it will replace its current PASS passport application system with one that will allow …

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FAIL

2016: News Headlines today...

- Online passport application service £2bn over budget, still not secure

- Black market flooded with fake British passports

- Passport Office not fit for purpose, says minister

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Boffin

But will it reduce passport renewal costs?

Passports used to cost GBP 18 to renew in 1997.

Well as of this year you would be pay,

Post Office handling charge: GBP 8.17

Passport Fee (goverment): GBP 77.50

Total cost: GBP 85.67!

That's 431% in 14 years or 11% per year! This is more than twice the highest single data point inflation, including the highest ever wage inflation, and almost four times the annual average over that period.

I'm not even including that if you attempt to fast-track it on the 1-day service, you pay GBP 129 regardless ...

So, will going online save the UK taxpayer any of their hard earned cash or another excuse to rack up costs well above inflation? Or is it time to riot for pieces of paper with your name on it yet? :)

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Silver badge
Flame

If you live abroad...

...it costs upwards of 3 times as much as that already.

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Unhappy

Eighty Five Pounds -- that's a steal!

I renewed by UK passport recently and it cost me $232. It wasn't fast tracked -- I sent the application off on May 24th and got the passport back July 28th.

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Thumb Up

Good stuff

Having just renewed my passport, this is way overdue. The form's badly written and the process is slow.

Get whoever did the car tax renewal to do it. They did a great job.

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Joke

"The form's badly written and the process is slow."

And you expect a government web based implementation to be different how exactly?

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WTF?

recipe for idiocy

Presumably, if we have questions about the online service, we can phone up the helpline which will have been outsourced to some place in India, thus meaning that even more of the key core services get handled by people who do hold a UK passport themselves. This would just be an extension of what already happens, with visa offices around the world (certainly in Beijing for instance) being staffed by local people. The powers that be like to claim that no decisions are made by the staff in these centres, but in my experience, they way they deal with your application means they can definitely influence applications, as they claimed was the case with my wife and son's applications until I stepped in and we insisted they dealt with their applications without prejudice.

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Go

More details?

Can you tell us more about what happened? After a couple of extended battles to get passports and other documents while in a different country, I'm always interested in how the process works and how local staff affect the process.

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Headmaster

Some more details...

1. Telling my wife and son (in Chinese) that they would not get a visa. This comment (or was it "threat") was hastily withdrawn when they became aware that I understood what they had said and was prepared to take it further with officials back in the UK.

2. Refusing to accept documents as legitimate that were necessary for my wife and son's applications, even though they were (e.g., a copy of the Land Registry entry for my house conforming I was the owner was going to be rejected on account of it "only being a copy rather than the actual entry"!)

3. Refusing to accept that I had retired early, so, although I had a statement about my private pension, etc, I did not have any details of my employer or my salary, and so the applications would be rejected as incomplete.

4. Refusing to accept that I had no mortgage (I had bought my house outright), and that if I did own it outright, where was the Local Council (???) statement that I did. (This was a bizarre reason, but it would be consistent with Chinese law, where owning land or property outright means one does have a local council statement conforming this.)

5. After complaints made to the person handling the application, we asked for the supervisor, and got a person who was not Chinese, but who might well have not been British either but Indian, who told us that they were following their protocols exactly, and we had no grounds for complaint. When I remonstrated with him about failures of basic knowledge of how the UK was run, he shrugged his shoulders and told us that if we knew better, we could insist they handed the application over in the same state as we had delivered it to them. Since I had organized the application and documents in a lofgical manner with clear labelling and an index, we said they should do that, whereupon they roughly gathered all the documents together in a heap, made no attempt to re-organize them as they had been when we submitted then, and jammed them into an envelope and said "Thank you".

I complained to my MP about this, but nothing seemed to come of it, and the application took about one month more than it should have done. However, after interviewing my wife and me at Beijing, my wife and my son were the only two out of 8 that day who were immediately given visas.

I strongly suggest that the Visa office were manifestly affecting the chance of success for people's applications, despite the protestations on the official government sources that they play no part in the decisions, and merely do an initial handling of applications.

This form of outsourcing and privatisation stinks and makes the UK a laughing stock.

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Unhappy

Re: Some more details

Daamn, that sounds pretty bad. I agree that the outsourcing and privatisation is bullshit. In this case, do you think the staff had any other motives? They sound like they were being actively obstructive, as opposed to just lazy and useless.

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Happy

You forgot the bribe (sorry, "gratuity"

Local people, local customs.....

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WTF?

difficult to tell...

I wondered about that, but because I cannot be sure, I think I'll settle for the lazy and useless option. However, it would be a good way of cutting down on visa applications, wouldn't it?...

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WTF?

Gratuities...

I also wondered about that. I thought that we should be able to see some person standing around looking important, and if we stuffed a brown envelope stuffed with 100yuan banknotes into his hands, we would be waved through. We didn't see that person. However, I am sure we were ripped off in two different ways: (a) insisting we used an in-house service (which we had to pay for) to translate some Chinese documents into English, when we had already got notarized translations for them - so we ended up paying twice for these, but, of course, one fee went to the Visa agency which wouldn't have happened if they had used our translations (b) although the applications forms said children under 16 could be handled and included with their biological mother's application, we were told this meant we still had to pay a separate fee (of around £500, if I recall correctly) and fill in a separate application form for him. I pointed out the inconsistency to them, but they were unmovable. They were surprised when we returned 15 minutes later with the completed application form for him, given that they expected we would not be in time, and a 4 day holiday was about to start.

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Aaargghhh

Oh fucking hell what could possibly go wrong

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Happy

Whoopee!

The end of border controls globally once the system has been hacked and everyone is a Brit.

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Facepalm

Just gimmie the forms!

I wonder if it ever occurred to the dozy buggers that simply allowing people to download and print application forms might be an inexpensive alternative.

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Mushroom

Re: Just gimme the forms!

Which is *exactly* what I did last time as you already can download the forms.

Then I had to send the ruddy things to an outsourced operation in Paris. Accompanied by another form with *all* my Credit card details and paying half-as-much-again as the domestic service for the privilege. Then a courier service for return charged at rates that, being in the business, I know damned well are entirely fictitious. This I will not miss.

I also will not miss paying the highest permissible premium rate under local legislation for a phone call to call their help line, only to have to enter CC details on connection so the thieving fuckers can charge 2EUR per bloody minute on top of that! This is probably illegal and definately breaks the spirit, if not the letter of the law.

If it puts their current subcontractors handling expat passports out of business and gets all their useless, thieving, incompetant staff sacked[1], it's worth whatever it costs.

What would be an acceptable alternative would be to reverse the NuLabour policy behind this and revert back to having these processed at the various country embassies. That used to work very well.

[1] Especially in a time of recession and high unemployment. Icing on the cake that.

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Anonymous Coward

Current system (for expats)

As a Brit living outside of the UK for more than thirty years, I can say that the current system is expensive and error-prone. Anything will be an improvement. And with a requirement to have a credit-card even to 'phone to ask what has gone wrong (at a cost of about EUR 1 per minute). And then when it goes wrong (which it does) it is also your own fault.

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Anonymous Coward

Expats

Agreed. I actually used the fastrack passport renewal scheme on my last visit to the UK because it was about the same price as renewing locally and much faster. The "local" method would have entailed a 400Km round trip, which was not significantly easier than going to London during my next home visit.

Another downside of renewing abroad is that your biometric data will be processed by one of two US owned companies who between them, have all the contracts to handle passport and visa applications at British embassies and consulates worldwide.

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passports

im also in need of a passport but there so exspensive at the min its nice that there going to put an application form online would save me filling one out with pen and paper. but seriously though if they want more customers to get passports as proof of identity and for opening bank accounts then there gonna have to reduce the price of them.

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Big Brother

Funny name

Why is it still called the "Identity and Passport Service"? The ID card scheme was scrapped last year and, as far as I know, the only function of this body is to issue passports. Or do they know something the rest of us don't?

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Pint

Slightly different direction

The National ID card may well be dead and gone and it's probably unlikely that it will ever be ressurected by this present coalition government. However don't be too surprised if forthcoming legislation doesn't promote the UK passport as a de facto National Identity document for the delivery of many public services. Nothing compulsory like, just incovenient when you don't have one at your disposal. As a majority of UK citizens already have a passport, this would prove to be a relatively non controversial option as well as providing a high level of identity assurance amongst the general population.

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Unhappy

already started

They just closed down the last GB consulate in Switzerland. Now we may apply to an outsourcing centre in Paris. Payment has to be sent by guaranteed cheque, in CHF, which doesn't work across borders and currencies. Biometrics on a postcard to...?

I can't complain though - they also just closed the honorary consul's office.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC9:56

You wrote "Passports used to cost GBP 18 to renew in 1997"

I believe my first passport was 25/- ( shillings, for those with short memories!).

But since 1997, we've had some years of prudent Liebournomics! So 11% per year inflation doesn't sound so bad.

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