A Second UK Passport
Today I have successfully applied for and collected a second British Passport. Not a duplicate, replacement or renewal: a second one. That is, I now have two equally valid, not lost, passports. This is not easy to do and, if you visit the UK Passport Authority's website, you'll find no information about it.
This is deliberate.
They really don't like giving out second passports and so don't advertise their availability. But, if you need a second passport, you can get one.
What follows is not authoritative advice. If the text below says one thing and the passport agency says another: they are right, I am wrong. I am simply reflecting my experience today as it may be relevant to others.
Why might you need a second passport?
There are very few circumstances in which a second passport will be granted. Two I know of are:
- you need to submit your passport as part of an application for a visa to one country while simultaneously visiting another so you'll be without your passport for several days;
- you need to travel to two countries that are hostile to each other (you won't get into many Arab countries if your passport says you've been to Israel and vice versa, for example).
Journalists like Jeremy Bowen and Lyse Ducett are likely to be in the second category. I find myself in the first.
How to Apply
The way to apply is first to phone the Passport Agency and make an appointment at your nearest office. It is at this point that you pay the fee. Please be aware that this fee is not refundable. If you application is ultimately unsuccessful, it is likely that you will not get a refund.
Then go to your local Post Office and collect a passport application form. Fill this in as if you are applying for the first time. In particular, you will need to supply two photographs, one of which needs to be counter signed and the counter signatory will also need to sign your form (this process is not necessary for simple renewals but is for first and second passports). Don't worry if you're not sure how to fill in some of the questions about whether this is a first passport or not. I turned up with those blank and they were filled in by the agent. I didn't see how he filled it in so I can't advise on how to do it. But things like your name, place of birth etc. are obvious enough. The agent asked me to fill in the additional information section with the words 'Second Passport Application.' I was asked to include the number of my existing passport in the relevant section too.
When you make your appointment, you'll be told you need a letter from your employer explaining why you need a second passport. This must have what's called a wet signature. That is, it must be an original document that the responsible person in your company personally signed. It can't be a scan, photocopy etc.
What they don't tell you is what needs to be in that letter. I was told that they can't write the letter for you.
And nor can I.
But I can tell you what information it should contain. It needs to explain:
- your current need for a second passport (mine explained the first option above);
- that this is a common occurrence for you, not a one off. If your reason is the visa application one, it's a good idea to indicate that you regularly travel to countries for which visas are required (try and include more than one, three is good).
The Passport Office won't issue a second passport for a one off occasion. As it was explained to me, passports last 10 years. Second passports are really for people who fill those up with visas within 2 years or so.
If you go for the same day service, and if you're submitting a visa application when about to go abroad somewhere else, you probably will, you'll be told that your passport will be ready in 4 hours. What I was actually told was:
- it will take no more than 4 hours;
- it will not take less than 3.5 hours;
- if you arrive 45 minutes early, you're pushing it and you should expect to wait.
There are notices everywhere exhorting you not to arrive early. The bit of paper you have telling you your collection time says don't arrive more than 10 minutes early.
I walked around London, had a coffee, looked in vain for power for my laptop, walked some more, went to Waterstones, went for a pint, and eventually the magic hour came. Exactly 3.5 hours after my application had been completed, I went to the collection point. The conversation with the assistant went something like this:
Me: I'm a bit early but is my passport ready please?
Her: When did you apply? (reading my slip of paper) Oh yes, that'll be ready, no problem.
Me: As a matter of interest how much earlier could I have come?
Her: About an hour
Me: That would have been one and a half hours early, only two and a half hours after I submitted my application.
Her: Yes, that's usually about right, it can take longer sometimes if we're really busy but not normally.
My actual experience today was horrible but that was in no way the fault of the staff at the Passport Agency who were all very helpful. The agent who helped me, Keith on counter 2, did all he could to help, as did Fred the security guard and others. And the beer in the St George's Arms pub across the road is excellent.