ONLINE PASSPORT APPLICATION EXPERIENCE
I am a Citizen’s Advice Research and Campaign Volunteer at Caterham & Warlingham. I have been working on a project about getting appropriate and affordable photo ID for clients who do not drive, and have a physical or learning disability. The first stage of my research was to look into the cost of a passport and passport photos, and to apply for a passport online.
RESEARCH AND FINDINGS
I recently applied for a new passport. I decided to use the passport online application. I have used online applications before to apply for a blue badge, to see how easy it is to use for our clients with disabilities (physical and mental health). I have a disability myself, and if I can pass my knowledge onto others, where appropriate, I will. This is when the matter of ‘where appropriate’ comes into debate. In what situations is it appropriate or necessary to declare your disability?
During the process of applying for my passport online, I was asked to submit a different photo four times. The first reason being that it was taken in my house, on my own device, and the lighting was poor and there was a shadow. I was also wearing my glasses. I rang the passport office and explained that I have a squint, and they said that I would still need to take my glasses off, but make a note, on medical grounds about my squint. This was all very helpful and acceptable. I went into the chemist in town to have a passport photo taken with a digital camera. The photographer very happily took my photo three times, until we were both satisfied my photo would pass the requirements of the passport office. The shop was very good value for money. I got emailed 8 photos, and 8 printed copies, which in all are 16 photos for the price of £8. I was pleased with that. I submitted the digital photo from the shop online, and it was declined again. I rang the passport office for the third time, and spoke to a very helpful man called John, who explained that the photo looked like I wasn’t ‘straight on at the camera’. After some discussion, I realised that it may be because I sit in a wheelchair and that I have cerebral palsy. John, at the passport office, added the information I gave him to the medical notes, and said he would suggest to the office they reconsider the photo based on the medical notes provided. I later got an email from the passport office, notifying me that my passport was approved and that I would receive it shortly. I was delighted that I had successfully applied. I, however, wondered why it needed to take a whole month to sort out the problems, was it a situation where people would need to declare their full impairment? It was, after all, a head shot. Was the fact that I use a wheelchair relevant? I made the decision in my situation, to give all the information about myself, because it helped my appeal. I also have a great acceptance of who I am. I raised these questions in this report to highlight the possible problems, maybe other passport applicants in a similar situation would feel uncomfortable about the amount of medical information they may need to provide. It has made me unsure about applying online for a passport again. The good thing is I now know the pros and cons of the process. My advice to others would be to go to the post office, rather than online, if you are applying for a passport, and go to a shop to have a photo taken by a photographer who takes passport photos regularly.
The next stage of my research is to apply for a Citizenship Card.
Research and Campaigns
Caterham Warlingham Citizen’s Advice