I found myself in a rather tricky predicament. My company had given me a fantastic opportunity to go and work on a project in Tokyo for 6 months and at the same time, I was trying to plan for our 2017 Darnley Adventure : One Steppe Beyond (which features my Dad, my younger sister Laura and I driving from our house to Mongolia). Having spent the last 12 months telling everyone how much I wanted to travel – especially back to Asia, I’d be a bit of an idiot to turn down this amazing offer but at the same time, how on earth was I meant to go around securing the nine visas we’ll be needing between London and Mongolia if my passport was with me in Tokyo?
A little bit of googling and some advice from a former colleague saved me : the answer was a second passport.
Initially I was rather confused – how does this work? Is one cancelled? Is it extended? What’s going on?
But it really is as simple as it sounds. You can be issued with a separate standalone passport (it’s not a duplicate of your existing one) which functions in exactly the same way as the single passport most people hold except you just have two instead of one. Smart, right?
So how does one go about applying for such a passport? Well don’t bother looking on Her Majesty’s Passport Office page because unfortunately you won’t find much help there. The holding of a second passport is only granted in certain circumstances and was never meant for all and consequently it is not advertised or publicised in any way. Consequently, finding out what is required to get one can be rather tricky. Namely, you need to be either such a frequent traveller that having only one passport is inhibiting your ability to do your job or you need to be travelling between opposing countries where having stamps from one country could impede your ability to enter the other. Now there is an element of flexibility regarding the circumstances above but one thing for sure is that it’s solely for businessmen/women, not for travellers (sadly). For more on the actual application process for a second business passport, check out my how to article.
So, while compiling my how-to article and working through the process myself, I found myself calling the Passport Helpline a fair few times to double check I was doing everything correctly. I think I made around five calls in total, of which three were helpful. On these occasions, when I mentioned I was applying for a second passport, they knew exactly what the deal was and were able to help me. On the two other occasions, the staff I spoke to were rather useless so I followed HUTA – Hang Up Try Again. I got there in the end.
Despite being advised to book online by the first lady I’d spoken to, I’d tried and failed to book an appointment online since technically it is treated as an application for a first adult passport which can’t be done via the premium one day or one week service. I ended up calling up again where, contrary to what I’d been told about it being treated as a first adult passport application, I was booked in for the premium one day service for a passport renewal with a note saying “Do not void her current passport”.
I arrived a little bit early on the day and was second in the queue when they opened the doors. My application was checked at the reception, accepted and I was given a ticket. I went upstairs and sat down for about 6 seconds before being called up to the desk to submit my application.
The lady at the desk was the same lady who’d handled my passport renewal application the week before. We’d chatted previously about how I was planning to apply for a second passport so when she saw me, saw my application – it clicked. She laughed – “back already then?”.
My application was accepted, I was told I could collect my passport in 4 hours and that, I thought, was that.
I got a call about two hours later saying that there had been an issue with my application. Basically the endorsement letter provided by my company had not been dated and they did not consider my HR representative to be senior enough to authorise the document therefore was invalid. However, as they’d already accepted my application at the desk, I had 24 hours in which to provide a new, dated version of the letter for them to proceed with my application, otherwise my application would cancelled and my passport fee lost.
Oh dear. Cue mayhem and drama. It turned out my HR advisor had gone on leave, so the matter got escalated – and then escalated further. In the end, thanks to a lot of running around and a lot of calls and chasing from our HR department, I got a new letter. I picked it up and legged it over to Victoria to submit the letter. (I got to the doors 15 minutes after they shut so begged the staff in the Collection Office to accept the letter and give it to the back office teams who work around the clock which they kindly did).
The following day I called up again to check on the status of my application and was informed that the letter had been accepted and that the passport was ready for collection. Thank goodness!
The takeaway from my story : Make sure your endorsement letter comes from someone manager level or above (and make sure their title is clearly stated on the letter) and make sure said letter is dated!