Progress Update: on Passports and Position Papers

This WordPress Wednesday (she writes, as though she were still doing this weekly) comes to you from regional Victoria, where I’m once again ensconced in the spare bedroom. Most days the soundtrack to our mornings has included the detonation of devices at the nearby Army base, which is arguably still better than the muffled loudspeaker noises which my Wollongong-based colleagues are enduring in light of the UCI event.

Personally, I think UCI sounds like a medical complaint and have been referring to it as “the stupid [expletive-deleted] bike race,” like many people I know. It may do well in terms of getting Wollongong an international profile as intended–that remains to be seen–but my goodness, it’s inconvenienced a lot of locals in the process.

Speaking of deleted expletives, I’m starting to think that the F in DFAT doesn’t stand for Foreign, after all.

The Golden Ticket

Australian passports are supposed to be processed and returned within about six weeks, but I’ve had a few in my time and I don’t recall it ever taking more than two. Enter COVID. Now, way more people than usual are applying all at once and the system is failing. Spectacularly.

I had my interview at the post office and handed in my paperwork on July 25. For those playing along at home, that is 8.5 weeks ago. It is still showing as “Under Assessment.” One wonders what could possibly take so long to be assessed, given that it’s a renewal and literally nothing has changed since last time.

Putting the rotten thing in was stressful enough in itself. The local PO guy–the PO is under new ownership–had taken the photos for us, after first telling my husband he couldn’t take his photos because he didn’t know the dimensions for a British passport. Again, we’ve had a lot of passports at our advanced ages, and it’s never been an issue. But the Spousal Unit went away, googled, and then returned to offer proof onscreen of what we already knew ie that they are the same size.

Then I rocked up for my booked interview and I was told that my original birth certificate was no good because it was foolscap and his printer wouldn’t scan it. I did point out that a great many Australians were born in the foolscap era, but to no avail. Apparently I should have somehow known that that particular post office had a printer/scanner that frankly, isn’t fit for purpose for most of us–Gen X and the Baby Boomers are all likely to have inconveniently sized paperwork. So I drove home and found the A4 version I’d paid to have reissued a few years back when I momentarily couldn’t find the original and panic-bought a replacement, and then I hightailed it back within the original booked timeframe. PO guy was most impressed that I had a differently sized version, and no wonder–most people wouldn’t.

Then he told me that he couldn’t accept my photographs. The ones he’d taken. He told me I shouldn’t have had my referee write on them the exact sentence that the passport office says to write on them–he needed an unmarked one. He kept repeating this with increased agitation, even as I kept pointing to the remaining photos, because you get SIX in a batch. Eventually, I got through to him that if he wanted an untouched photo, they were lying right in front of him. I’m not sure why I was the calm one when I’m the traveler and the one with diagnosed anxiety, and he was merely the guy doing the processing. “But they’re not cut,” he said. So I asked to borrow his scissors and hey, presto–virgin passport photo for the application.

So you can see why the delay in processing might be making nervous.

He then used those same scissors to cut through my previous, unexpired passport, meaning I’m now without one altogether. I still had eight months on the old one, which I also wasn’t able to use for more than two years because of the pandemic. A ten year passport is just not looking like good value for money right now.

The APO has confirmed by email that they have the application in the system and everything is there. So I do have that in writing. What I don’t have is evidence of any progress. At all. And I’m wondering how or when to try to escalate this, because honestly, with family overseas, I don’t like to be without a passport for any period of time. And I don’t see why I should be, given that I took steps to make sure it was renewed in plenty of time.

Meanwhile Mr-I-Never-Got-Around-to-Doing-my-Australian-Citizenship-Stuff got his British passport back in under two weeks. From the UK.

We have flights booked in eight weeks–heading for a brief beach break with my faux-niblings and -sister, under whose roof I’m currently lodged. Unfortunately, I have no confidence that things will be sorted out by then. According to the FB page for folks like me, the backlog seems to be being cleared for those who’ve submitted recently. But for those of us who submitted April-July–lining up in the nearest Passport Office within three days of your flight seems to work, sometimes. Not always. And my nearest Passport Office is quite a long way from the South Coast.

Back when I was enthusiastic about travel and believed in things like passports being processed, we booked accommodation for our big trip UpOver for the baseball and family Disney shenanigans. It’s hard to be excited, though, under the circumstances. Booking flights and sorting visas is significantly harder without a passport, so planning for that adventure is currently on hold.

One day.

Between now and the totally-booked-and-paid-for-holiday-I-can’t-get-to-without-a-passport in November, there is a mountain of work to be done, including landing a strategic framework. Landing a strategic framework also involves significant consultation around a recently redrafted position paper, itself a substantial piece of work. But I just watched my mate submit a full draft of her thesis (the reason I came down to distract the adolescents this week), and my co-editors and I sent The Vampire Diaries manuscript off last week. So sometimes these big milestones get met.

Time to party

Fingers crossed.

For now, it’s time for our leaving-night tradition (superstition?) of KFC before I make the long drive back tomorrow.

Ring of Steel

Have you been impacted by the great Australian Passport Debacle of 2022? Let me know if you have any tips on how to expedite the accursed process!

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