Far from thinking I deserved special treatment just cos I’m Irish n’all, long before the time came that my 3-year-old daughters passport was due to expire, I applied for her new one because I knew that the passport office would likely to be flat our issuing passport to folks that fancied an additional travel pass to complement their British one, because that’s how Ireland works, PC to the detriment. to have a choice should their future travel plans etc run smoother by utilising either or possibly both.
I will point out that despite being born in Qatar, she is not entitled to a Qatari passport. I will also point out that an Irish passport is the only passport she is entitled to. Thus, our only means of escape, sorry, travel out of Qatar is to have a valid Irish passport. I didn’t stress this point on my passport application because a. I assumed that the straight renewal of a full-Irish would trump the issue of a first-time application whereby eligibility and entitlement would have to be established. B. there was no space on the form.
A stock of Irish passport forms in my bottom drawer here in Qatar I proceeded to fill one out and prepared to send it by courier, until I realised, yes, it was possible to make the renewal application online. Easy peasy or so I thought. Getting an Irish passport photograph in Qatar is not necessarily an clear cut task. Sure, passport photographs are big business here in Qatar given that 90% of the population are expats, but photo shops tend to specialise in Bangladesh, Indian and Sri Lankan requirements, and have little knowledge of the Irish passport requirements, being a white background, neutral gaze and shoulders but not elbows in the photograph. I shared these requirements with the photographer, bribed my daughter to stand still with neutral stare and was happy that we had met the requirements. When the four small squares were handed to me, my daughters fair curls were nowhere to be seen, instead the photographer had coloured her hair a very dark brown and styled it into something similar to a combover. ‘better blacker’ he said, ‘her hair very light colour’. Finally, I convinced him that the point of the passport photograph was that it be a true representation of the passport holder and that perhaps blacker was better but we’d have to stick with the fair colour for this one.
Reluctant but resigned he gave me the image, with the caveat, ‘but too much white’. I uploaded same to the online passport application and waited for the magic. The magic didn’t happen. Instead it informed me that while the application was received the signatures must be posted. I thought it was an online application, I said to the screen, there was no reply.
Posting from Qatar is about as reliable as commissioning a pigeon so the next person flying, took the sheet and posted it within Ireland, this was to complete the application. But aha, the passport office had planned to ring the signatory, the headmaster. Three hours behind, a working day of 6.a.m to 2.p.m. and a working week of Sunday to Thursday would see all attempts made by the passport office to contact the school, failed. Failed also were my attempts to contact the passport office who have applied a ‘we’re not answering the phone message because we’re too busy’.
So here we are, current passport now expired last week with the result that the residents permit is also expired, to clarify it is illegal to reside in Qatar without a valid passport/resident permit. Go to the embassy! I hear your scream. There is no Irish embassy in Qatar.
Full circle, from thinking initially I’ll apply early and be happy to wait in line until it’s my turn, I’m now furious that the simple renewals aren’t dealt with first and as for the online application service which provides no online chat facility and all significant documentation has to be posted anyway, how is that online?
Thanks a bunch, for leaving us high and dry. May I amend my first statement, ‘we should expect special treatment from our own passport office because we’re Irish’.