27th February 2011

What's a passport for? No, not a silly question. It always used to mean that you were off travelling somewhere. However, for expats it's essentially an identity card. The French have their carte d'identite, which they use ubiquitously at shops to delay queuers. No way will they use plastic - it costs too much!
With this in mind, I was aware the clock was ticking as our 'essential IDs' will be out of date Mar 2012. Passports are supposed to last 10 years, but effectively it's 9 and a half as Customs won't let you on the plane during the last bit. But then I read the renewal system is changing. Typical! British expats will no longer be able to renew passports via the Paris consulate. From 1 April the consulate will still receive renewal requests but will do so on behalf of the UK Identity and Passport Service (IPS), which processes passports within the UK. What it means is that expats like us will receive passports directly from the UK. You know what that means - yet more expense. But it's already a massive rip-off. An expat's passport in France costs 178 euros, compared to 77.50 pounds (includes free postage) for UK residents. That's 356 euros for the two of us. I'll certainly be keeping an eye on the ukinfrance.fco.gov.uk website to check for further price hikes. Understandably, Him indoors says in future you'll recognise UK expats via the threadbare caps being passed round at communal events.....

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