Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A trip to the British Embassy

For those of you who didn’t know I’m actually half-British. Dad was from Belfast while my Mom was from Winnipeg. This entitles me to British citizenship though it was something that I never pursued. Not sure why, I guess growing up in Western Canada it was never a big deal – if you were already a Canadian citizen what would being a UK citizen get you? It’s not like the family had any plans to move back.

30+ years and one EU later having that citizenship was looking more and more like a worthwhile thing, especially now that my work is more specialized in insurance & reinsurance. London is one of the ‘Big Three’ centres in this area (the others being Bermuda and New York) so it is definitely possible that I might wind up there in time. In any event it just seems prudent to get my UK passport before they do some crazy rule changes that would cut me out.

It took a while for my family and I to get the required documentation together from Northern Ireland and Canada but it was eventually compiled together. So with application and paperwork in hand it was off to the British Embassy in Doha to submit it.

Not surprisingly security at the embassy is fairly tight – concrete blocks to prevent cars parking near it, metal detector, security-monitored double doors (i.e. you go through one door into a small room, then a door at the other end of the room once the first door is closed) but it took maybe a couple of minutes to get through it all. After that I steeled myself for the ensuing chaos and walked inside to the passport section.

Now I was steeling myself because last year I had to renew my Canadian passport when visiting the family in Calgary. What a zoo that was. It was like a rock concert, you had to line up early just to guarantee that you’d be seen that day. I think each time I went the wait through the line up was something like 45-60 minutes – and I went pretty early. By the time I left they were always turning people away.

Anyway at the UK Embassy I had to:

- wait in line for a clerk to give them my forms
- wait for them to go through my forms to see if everything is there
- wait for them to go away with the forms for whatever reason
- be told to have a seat as I will be speaking with a consular officer about the application (I wasn’t expecting that)
- have an interview with the officer, basically to clarify some details like why after 30+ years I was applying for UK citizenship now.
- Pay my fees

Total time for all of this: 40 minutes!

Wow, was that ever fast! I figured it would take a lot longer, and the moment I was told to take a seat for a discussion with a consular officer I pretty much wrote off the rest of the morning right then and there. But it was all very fast, efficient, and best of all – pleasant. All of the staff were very nice and helpful, even the consular officer was kind and polite.

Maybe they do that to help soften the blow of the passport application fee, which is approximately US$245. Ack! That is some serious fees for a passport, I think my Canadian one was a third of that.

Anyway, the docs are submitted, the fees are paid. Now I’ll sit back and see what happens. I’m not even sure how long it will take. I hope the passport photos that I submitted were okay, but I had my friend Eric in Bermuda sign two different sets (he’s a laywer) and I submitted both of them, so that if one set is not acceptable to the passport office maybe the other ones will.

Hopefully in a month or so I’ll be a dual Canada/UK citizen!


Anonymous said...

u will need to attend an interview mate

Glen McKay said...

Um, no, the brief discussion with the consular officer was it. No other interviews. If you read on in the blog I got my passport about 10 days later.