I’ve been looking forward to a much needed holiday in the US this November. On Tuesday night, I checked my passport only to discover that it will expire in December this year. As the US requires at least six months validity on the passport, I thought I could hop on the passports website and easily renew my current passport.
Boy oh boy was I wrong. What should have been a quick and painless process turned out to be a case study for a bad user experience.
Having what I thought was a current and valid passport, I selected the Passport Applications menu item, then the Renew option. After following the form flow for a while, I got stuck on the login screen, was eventually locked out and then asked to contact the passport team (the number only works if you call during business hours). When I called the next day, I was told that I can’t renew my current passport as it has less than two years validity (thanks to a name change due to my marriage two years ago). Instead, I’ll have to go through a new passport application.
After going back and being a lot more through with my reading of the extraneous text on the passport website, I discovered that there’s actually a PDF that you have to download and read which contains important information (can you spot it in the image below?). I also discover that despite the page saying that you should use the renewal form if you have a current passport, you still need to find the relevant PDFs on the website, read the instructions in great detail and hope that you have the right form.
This was pretty annoying but I buckled down and tried to work my way through the online new passport application. The first page I get asks a series of questions (as per the following image). Note that the supplementary text for the third question “Do you want to renew your Australian passport?” doesn’t tell you about the less-than-two-years validity rule.
Once you start the form, there is no clear indication of the documentation you need to have to complete the form. As I start completing the form, I soon realise that there’s eleven steps I need to go through. Each step has to be completed before you can move to the next step (which is an absolute pain if you’re trying to work out what documents you need to have prepared BEFORE you get to that step).
The step that’s currently causing the most angst is the citizenship section. I have to prove that I’m an Australian citizen – either via an Australian Birth Certificate (which I don’t have as I’m born overseas) or an original Australian Citizenship Certificate (which I also don’t have as I’m on my parents’ citizenship certificate).
The Citizenship website tells me that I can apply for proof of citizenship, which is a 12 page PDF form, costs $55 (Australian dollars) and will take about 30 days. This is a problem – I leave for the US in less than 30 days.
I call Immigration who tells me that I have two choices – apply for my own citizenship certificate (which won’t arrive in time, unless I can prove that there’s a compassionate reason like death in the family) or use my parents’ original certificate (which is still located on the other side of the country).
The fact that I have a current and valid Australian passport, a Medicare card and the Citizenship Certificate number doesn’t matter. According to the new rules that came into effect on 1st October 2008:
From today, the Australian Passport Office will only accept the new passport applications forms which were introduced on 1 July 2008 to strengthen the identity management process that underpins the Australian passport issuing system.
The new forms better ensure the names included in replacement passports match those recorded on state and territory births, deaths and marriages registers or the Australian citizenship register.
I wonder how they thought I got my original passport?
So to fix up potentially erroneous processes from previous years, the Australian Citizens has to undergo quite a difficult process to apply for a passport. I’m still in the process of applying for a new passport. I’ve asked my parents to send their original certificate through registered mail so I can get it safely and on time. But funnily enough, I’m not the only person to be going through such a bad passport user experience.
- Map out the entire user experience – the experience can be harder that you think and it’s not just limited to the web!
- Consider a better integration between passports.gov.au, locating an appropriate passport interview venue (some Australian Post offices) and the Immigration department (for proving your Citizenship if required)
- Rewrite your content so it makes sense!!!
For the Citizen:
- Give yourself ample time to renew or apply for a passport, especially if you need to prove your citizenship!
Fingers crossed that I can get everything sorted out in time for my November holiday…