Renewing my British passport overseas

It’s 14 months since I began the process of applying for my Irish citizenship, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon, what with the increase in other British people going for Irish citizenship. And so while I can’t get my Irish passport, I need to renew my British one.

If memory serves, the last time I had to renew my passport I had to apply through the British Embassy here in Dublin, which meant my passport was issued by the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office).

This time around I’m able to use the online renewal service, and I’ve got to say, I’m actually quite impressed about how well it works!

Renewal Process

After answering a few screening questions to check if I was suitable for online renewal, I was then offered advice about my passport photo.

The photo can be one of the following:

  • A photo taken in a photo booth that gives a special code that can be shared with the passport authorities to retrieve the digital image
  • A photo taken by another passport photo establishment such as a pharmacy where they can give me the electronic image to upload
  • A photo you take myself – or rather by someone else – as long as it conforms to the photo rules

The fact that I was able to take my own photo was great as it saved me a few quid. I got my wife to take a photo of me against the kitchen wall using my mobile phone and it was perfectly fine.

I then answered a set of questions about me and my previous passport, upload the photo, and that was it. The whole thing took less than 5 minutes!

As soon as my application was in they sent me an email with a postal address (mine was in Belfast) to post the old passport.

Frequent Updates

I love the fact that the process sends out frequent updates on what’s happening, by email, SMS, or both.

I got a notification when they received my old passport in the post, another when my application was approved, another when it was printed, and another when it was dispatched.

And from the time they received my passport in Belfast to when it was dispatched was just 2 days. So the only long waits for me were the postage of passports back and forth.

Mine was delivered by DHL, and they seem to have the restriction that they only deliver to the home address stated in the application, and there does need to be someone in to sign for it – but that seems like good security.

Arrived

I wasn’t at home to receive the passports in person (they send back the old passport and new one in different packages), but I was able to get them redirected to a DHL office that’s only a 15 minute walk from my office.

So here’s my old and new passports together. You can see I got one of the amended design which omit the words “European Union” from the top.

Waiting one year for my citizenship

It’s now exactly 12 months to the day since I applied for Irish citizenship through naturalisation. And I’m still waiting…

The INIS website says that “it takes 6 months for a straightforward application” and I would have thought that mine was fairly non-contentious. I’ve lived in Ireland for nearly 12 years now, am married to an Irish person, and I’ve never been in trouble with the law.

Someone on the Immigration Boards suggested that all applications are being delayed because of Brexit, which I suppose could be true. There are around 100,000 British citizens living in Ireland, and I’m sure a fair number of them might want to secure their future living here – in addition to the approximate 12,000 people a year that apply for nationalisation.

There’s an upcoming citizenship ceremony in Killarney at the end of April, but I’d say that it’s doubtful at this stage that I’ll be included in this one as it’s only 6 weeks away. After that the next ones advertised are in September and December of this year – and so, even if my application finishes processing in the next few month, then I’ll still have a long wait to attend a ceremony.

Reserving hotel rooms

A trip from Dublin to Killarney to attend the citizenship ceremony is a pretty long journey. It’s a 300 km drive taking about 3.5 hours each way (and a similar time on the train), so it’s not the kind of journey that I’d like to do there and back in one day.

So I’m made some provisional reservations for hotels in Killarney for both the September and December ceremony dates on Booking.com, which I can amend or cancel nearer the time once I know if I’ll be included in the ceremony.

Renewing my UK passport

My current British passport is due to expire at the start of 2020. When I first applied for my Irish citizenship in April 2018 I had hoped to have switched over to my new Irish passport long before the UK one ran out. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I’m conscious that some countries need passports to have at least 3-6 months left to run on them before they allow admittance. So it looks like I’ll need to renew my UK passport by about June or July of this year. And then hopefully get my Irish passport some time after that.

Passengers on flights from the UK still have to go through Passport Control in Dublin Airport

Yesterday afternoon I arrived home on a flight from Edinburgh, and had to queue for 25 minutes at Passport Control in Dublin Airport. When I fly the other way, into the UK from Ireland, there’s no passport checks when I arrive. So why am I forced to go through Passport Control in Dublin?

Ireland and the UK have what is called a “common travel area” that is meant to allow people to travel freely between the two countries without having to show their passport – and includes everyone travelling between Ireland and Britain, and Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately in 1997 the Irish government changed the law so that the rule about not requiring passengers to present a passport only applies to Irish and British citizens. People from other countries (including other EU nationals) are required to present their passport when arriving in Ireland.

And because a flight or ferry from the UK will probably include people who are not Irish or British, then everyone has to be checked when they arrive.

And although all passengers have to go through Passport Control, if you are Irish or British you don’t actually need to show your passport. Your only requirement is to satisfy the Immigration Officers (who are members of the Garda Síochána) that you have travelled from within the common travel area (your boarding card should suffice) and that you are an Irish or British citizen.

Of course, the easiest way to prove you a Irish or British citizen is to show your passport! But according to the citizen’s information you just need to show any form of photographic ID to prove who you are, such as a driver’s licence, bus pass, or work ID. However none of these other forms of photographic ID show your nationality, so I don’t know how that’s supposed to work.

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