The only thing that seems consistent with the way the British government treats is expats is the level of contempt with which it treats them.

Consider the case of renewing a passport. Until a few years ago one went to the British Embassy or nearest Consulate, handed in the old one and picked up the new one a few days later, or had it posted to you. Simple, convenient.

Then they changed the rules. You had to send a photocopy of your passport to Hong Kong to apply for a new one. (In Thailand one is legally required to keep one’s passport about one’s person at all times, hence the photocopy.) There was also an outrageous charge for DHL to courier your passport back to Thailand – not that DHL actually delivered your passport to your door – that was done by the Thai Post Office, which employs rather too many light-fingered posties.

Then they changed the rules again. This time you had to send the photocopy to the UK.

And then once more they changed the rules. The process has been privatised, and now one must go to the offices of VFS (a Swiss company) in Bangkok in person not once, but twice. The thought of VFS fills me with dread. I had to use their service to apply for a visa to India. The place was noisy and chaotic – a little taste of India before you arrive. So, rather than having the passport returned to you at home, it’s returned to VFS. However, you still have to pay the £23 courier charge. Outrageous! There will also be a VFS “processing fee”. It’s not yet clear how much this will be.

Consider the case of an elderly pensioner living in the far North, somewhere like Chiang Rai, 800 km from the embassy. There’s no way to make a round trip in a single day, so not only will renewing a passport take 4 days of the pensioner’s time, it’ll also involve two night stays in an hotel. That’s a lot of extra time and cost.

Also consider the case of someone living near the border with Malaysia who loses their passport or has it stolen. They’re 1150 km from Bangkok. They can’t fly (no passport), so have to go by train or bus – around 17 hours by train or 16 by bus each way – and there’s only one train a day which is frequently cancelled because of track failures. That’s a total of 8 days off work and a lot of gruelling travel.

Have the civil servants responsible thought this through? Do they really think this is an acceptable way to treat the country’s citizens?

Anyway, it’s a couple of years before I need to renew my passport. Doubtless the system will have changed again by then – I hope for the better.

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1 Comment

  1. I am assuming the Indian visa was for that ‘trip’!! 🙂 Anyway, I know the feeling. When I had to get the Indian permanent visa, I had to go through VFS. To be honest, the office in Southall, was not that bad. However they are all very colonial in mind and frequently say ‘come back tomorrow’ as if I have no work to do. I just hate this phrase. Unfortunately that is the work culture.

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