Monday, 29 August 2016

How nostalgic is it getting a new passport?

My old faithful passport. With me since 2007 and a bit battered, but now officially and deliberately damaged to render it unusable.

Bali Hi!

Mickaeli and I are heading to Bali in September. Like the time you thought it was a good idea to wear shoes without sox and it just became smelly and uncomfortable, this has been a quick, recent decision, with the unforeseen complication of needing a new passport. On the other hand, I don't think the Four Seasons at Sayan will be smelly or uncomfortable.

My old passport would have run out at the beginning of February 2017 - which would have meant (by a whisker) less than 6 months validity on my passport by the time we exited Indonesia.

My travel agent said 'Don't even think about trying to use that old passport', and having no wish to endure any Shapelle Corby type experiences in Indonesian detention, I have taken his advice.

Airlines, not to mention immigration departments are almost universally strict about the 3 or 6 month rule.  And that means that your passport needs to have 3 or 6 month validity for the whole of your stay - up until you exit the country you are travelling to - not even a day less.

Sort of online application

So on 2nd August, being a person of a modern technological persuasion, I filled out my application form online, (surprisingly efficient for a government website - I'm talking about you mygov.com.au) printed it, and wandered around the corner to our local Post Office sub-branch to lodge it. Conveniently they also do passport photos - you know the ones that make you look guilty of almost any crime you can imagine, or at the very least someone to be avoided on public transport.

After a bit of checking, signing, offical stamping, hair arranging, photography, idle chit-chat and parting with around AU$300, I came away with 4 spare photos, an information sheet on what to do next, a very long receipt with lots of application codes, and the vandalised passport you see above.

Now the rules about how the photograph needs to appear for your passport are very strict. I thought going to an official passport agent for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) that promised  'We'll help ensure your passport application meets Australian Government requirements.' would in fact ensure that my application did meet Australian Government requirements.

Not so.

A week later, I almost missed an email from the lovely Bharathy at DFAT informing me that my photo didn't cut the mustard. I couldn't agree more. All I needed was an accompanying profile shot with an ID sign, and I looked like an inmate of some prison/asylum, or alternatively a phrenology exhibit.

Bharathy was not interested in my cosmetic appearance it turned out when I called her number. There was a printing artefact like a shadow on the print, which meant their highly sophisticated image security system rejected my photo. No biggie. I popped around the corner, and my sub-branch manager re-took my photos, at no extra charge and signed a few more forms. He offered to lodge the form via his courier system - but advised it would be quicker if I personally dropped it off at the central Sydney office. Since its only about 25 minutes away by public transport - I hopped on the train, and hand delivered the revised photos and accompanying paperwork myself. Very efficient - not even a queue to wait in.

The advantage of the online application is that you get a tracking number, so you can log-in and check on progress. Although 100% complete on 17 August - the system advised collection from 19 August onwards.  That Friday was a little fraught with work, so it took me until the following Monday to collect. Again no queue, just a momentary wait while the counter attendant logged in. A women of few words, the sight of my old vandalised passport and receipt was enough to make my new passport mine!

Shiny and new with a new translucent wallet holder! (not shown)

Passport nostalgia

This is only my 3rd passport ever. My first was acquired in 1988. Unfortunately in those days, they didn't render it useless, and return it - they just destroyed it once your new passport was issued - so I can't riffle nostalgically through that first one.

I can riffle nostalgically through my last one - which I will have to do when I make my application for a Russian Visa next year. They need 10 years of your travel history, and my memory just ain't that good without assistance.

No comments:

Post a Comment