Daily Archives: March 15, 2008

More red tape

Sarah was round here this afternoon.  Wanted me to countersign a passport renewal application.  Called on me ‘cos I was in the right place at the right time.

OK, not a problem.  I’ve known her since 1998, I know her address, I know her parents, and I’ve met other family members.  I can vouch for her being who she says she is with as much confidence as pretty much anyone.  So far, all perfectly reasonable.  That is, if we accept the need for anyone to countersign a perfectly routine renewal application, where the old passport is available and expires later this month.

The form itself is ridiculously confusing.  Not the main part, but the section where I sign.  It asks for information about me, but it bundles several questions into a single answer field.  My occupation and professional qualifications on one line.  My employer’s name and my home address. WTF?  OK, shove it all in; I’ve got nothing to hide.

The burning question is: am I eligible to sign such a thing?  The forms ask for a professional person, or someone with standing in the community (I don’t recollect the exact words, but it’s a fairly common type of formulation in the UK).  Examples cited are people like a doctor, lawyer, or minister of religion.  Well, I’m certainly not a person of standing in the community, nor is it clear to me whether a software engineer counts as a professional person in this class-ridden society.

I’ve ranted before about the ‘merkin obsession with notaries.  But this is the kind of case where having a notary to countersign would seem to make much more sense than some vague handwaving class-based criteria for eligibility[1].  Except … what if you don’t happen to know a notary (maybe you recently moved to a different region of the country)?  But in the UK, that could be a problem too: you come from a solid working-class background, you may struggle to think of a professional person among your friends, and have to try and pluck up courage to go to someone you don’t really know.  Does that make today’s form class discrimination?

[1] and if we used notaries for this kind of thing, there would be a lot more notaries, and competition would ensure their services were much cheaper and more readily available.  As is the case in the USA.