"I will put a note on the system" these words will forever haunt me due to my recent traumatising experience with the HM Passport Office. Having just about gotten over my initial trauma of missing my flight to the French Alps for a well overdue anniversary trip with the other half, I was very kindly presented with the opportunity to go on my first family holiday, munchkin and partner in tow. Of course I accepted and the only thing standing in my way was getting my son's passport. Now, this was in early September and we flew in early November so with a well known three week turn around time for a child's first passport I didn't have a worry in the world...boy was I naive.
Tip no 1. Use the post office Check and Send service to send off the application, using the Check and Send service will cut out any time wasted on errors on your application and they will also provide you with a application number which is essential when chasing up the process of the application.
I thought I was in safe hands as I had used the check and send service and I even received a text message two days later from the HM Passport Office saying that they had received the application and I should expect the passport to arrive within three weeks.
So I waited, three weeks went by, then three weeks and one day, three weeks and two days, on the third day I decided to ring up nice and calmly to just, you know find out when it had be sent out.
Tip no 2. Ring up the passport office the week after you send the application to check the processing details, they will NOT text you regarding any additional information they may require in order to complete the application.
I proceeded to be told that a letter had been sent to my countersignature requesting additional information, all of which would have been fine, had they informed me of this. Instead, I had wasted three weeks waiting for a passport that was pending based on a letter that I never knew existed! It didn't help that they had sent the letter to my countersignatures workplace, who works in a hospital where personal post would never reach her in a million years! To add insult to injury, they stated that the examiner who processes the application couldn't call her but had to resend the letter to her home address, thus adding an extra couple of days to this entire diabolical process and to my stress levels that were slowly growing by the day. Cue meditation and yoga.
Tip no 3. Where possible try to ensure you put your countersignatures home address on the application. If this isn't possible and they've contacted your countersignature, ring up the passport office and request that they resend the letter to their home address or warn your countersignature to be on the lookout for a letter being posted to their workplace.
Thankfully my countersignature was a good friend of mine who was on the ball and drafted a letter with the information they required the same day she received it. I then personally posted it recorded delivery and rang up everyday after to ensure it was received, which it was a few days later. By this time we had around three weeks left until we flew. So I continued to ring up every other day to find out what was going on, only to be told nothing as the examiner hadn't added any notes on the infamous system. Until, I received a text message from the passport office to say that I should receive my sons passport in the next seven days! Hallelujah!.....so I thought.
So at this point all peace is restored, I'm feeling great, reassured in the fact that it was printed and on its way, but then a week went pass and no passport. Anxiety levels spiking once again, I called the dreaded passport office once again, only to be told that they sent the passport out, via courier, to the wrong address. The wrong address!!! They read a digit of the address in my application incorrectly and scanned it as the wrong address.
Tip no 4. Please, please please ensure you write your address (especially the numbers) clearly on your application.
So, from this point on, a week and a half before I'm due to travel everything quickly spiralled downhill. I was ringing the passport office everyday trying to find out why the passport hadn't been resent to the correct address. Everyone had a different answer, the courier needed confirmation from the Peterborough passport office, I can't call the Peterborough office directly and neither could they, all the people at the HM Passport office could do was email the Peterborough office and wait for a response. I played piggy in the middle back and forth until the Thursday before I was suppose to fly the following Wednesday. I was told by the courier that the Peterborough office had requested the passport be sent back to them rather than posted to me with at the correct address. Well that was it, I was in floods of tears down the phone to a poor lady within the courier department who clearly wanted to get me off of the phone ASAP and transferred me back to the useless people I had been speaking to almost everyday at the passport office!
So, then I proceeded to do what any responsible parenting adult does, I rang my dad (I still call him daddy actually), sobbed my heart out and as dad's do, he fixed it. He managed to speak to someone who could help me. Do you want to know how? By the almighty power of COMPLAINING. I had been back and forth with countless people on the phone, 'complaining', he's on the phone for five minutes and he gets asked "would you like to speak to someone in our complaints department?" Errrrrr YES PLEASE! It was an incredibly emotional eureka moment. Why had I not thought of this before? Seriously it was insanity.
Tip no 5. If you are being pushed from pillar to post with a passport enquiry, or any enquiry anywhere, ask to be put through to the complaints department!
My dad spoke to a gentleman within the complaints department who said he would look into my situation for me and call me within the hour. Clearly by this point a certain amount of skepticism had me not holding my breath. But in all that is good in the world this wonderful man called me, within the hour, he told me that he'd spoken directly with the Peterborough office, via phone amazingly and that I had two options. Wow, after eight weeks of waiting, debating and getting nowhere, I had options! This was incredible! I could have the passport sent by courier to my home or I could collect it from the HM Passport office in Victoria. Well there was no way in hell I was risking another cock up! I rushed up to Victoria the next day and collected my sons first passport! The elation that washed over me was.....indescribable.
So parents, don't go through the same thing I did, check once, check twice and then exercise your right to complain!
Here's to dads and to knowing competency does still exist in some shape or form amongst large organisations and workplaces.