Thursday, February 25, 2010

On requirements that can no longer be met

Recently I reflected on actions that people continue to do, long after they cease to add value. Today I came across a related situation.

What about requirements that can no longer be met?

I have to apply for a new passport, because my last one has expired. Among the requirements for the new passport are a copy of the data page of my passport and two copies of my original marriage certificate. Fine. I have these to hand.

The problem is that they have to be certified copies of the original.

I used to work for a local authority in the Town Clerk's department. The Town Clerk, his deputy, the Town Treasurer and his deputy were all authorised to certify documents. They carried the title Justice of the Peace (if you please). And it was something they were asked to do from time to time. Someone would pop in with a document. We would photocopy it and then certify it on the back. No problem. I even did it myself once when, for a whole day, due to poor scheduling all four of the abovementioned office-bearers were out of town and I was acting Town Clerk (at the grand old age of 23, if you don't mind!).

So today, I took my documents, originals and copies to the police station, being fairly sure that there would be someone there with the authority to certify the copies for me.


"We are not allowed to do that any more."

Instead, it seems, the copies must be certified by a professional person (whatever that means) who knows me personally.

"Such as?" I was fairly sure this didn't include my husband. The police officer adopted a pained expression.

"Like your lawyer. Or your bank manager."

Right. Because I am constantly being sued left and right and have a lawyer on retainer. And because my bank manager knows me personally. Heck, who can even phone their bank manager in person these days? It's a good thing that I have an accountant on retainer for my business, because he has agreed to do it.

If someone knows you personally, surely that brings their impartiality into question. I was under the impression that such people had to be impartial witness types. If the office of the justice of the peace has fallen away, then why is this requirement still in place? It's like being asked to turn the crank handle on a modern car before being issued with a driving licence. And what if you simply don't number such people in your circle of acquaintance. For example, what if I was Jo Bloggs the supermarket shelf-packer? I'm fairly sure Jo won't have an accountant. A pastor, then (just in case my accounting was unavailable, I had asked the officer if my pastor could do it, and she assured me that he could). But perhaps Jo Bloggs doesn't go to church. Then what?

If you are simply unable to fulfill this requirement, do you go passportless into that good night?

I can't see why they don't just have a photocopying machine at the passport office, and a person on hand to certify that piece of paper A is definitely a copy of piece of paper B, because he saw it being copied. So there.

And why are are faffing with bits of paper anyway? Why can't we just scan the damned things into the system once and for all and be done with it? So that next time I go there, they still have a copy of my marriage certificate and the data page of my expired passport on record.

Ugh. Now I have to go to London tomorrow and stand in an interminable queue. And the passport might still take so long to be issued that I am unable to make it to eLearning Africa in Zambia at the end of May.

Faff. Faff. Faff.

1 comment:

Stephen Downes said...

We used to have similar requirements in Canada - our passport applications have to be guaranteed by a 'person of good standing' in the community - a lawyer, banker, pastor, professor, etc - with the same problems. This was only changed a couple years ago, to allow any passport holder to be a 'person in good standing'.