Not really sure if this is the right section for this but here goes…
The FCO birth certificate issued to British citizens born overseas is expensive and useless. Passport applications for British citizens born in Taiwan to one British and one Taiwanese parent need the following documentation when applied for from the UK (different requirements may exist if applying from overseas):
- British parent’s long-form birth certificate (can be applied for online for around £10)
- Child’s Taiwanese hospital birth certificate (English)
- Child’s Taiwanese passport if available
- Child’s household registration transcript (English)
- 2 Photos, one of which must be countersigned (specs on website here: https://www.gov.uk/photos-for-passports refer to height from crown to chin but the actual specification is hidden elsewhere: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/passport-photo-eye-distance-template - if your photos don’t fit this eye-distance template they’ll be rejected.)
- Application form (countersigned)
I recently returned to the UK for a month and decided to apply for a British passport for my three-year old son. My decision to do this in the UK rather than from Taiwan was motivated by the difficulty I’d have in Taiwan of meeting the requirement for citizens applying for a first-time passport to have applications countersigned by a British (or Commonwealth) citizen of “good standing” in the community (i.e. a doctor, lawyer, police officer, school teacher etc.) who has known the applicant (or applicant’s parent/guardian) for two years or longer. (At this point it’s well worth noting that I don’t even know for sure if overseas applicants still need this countersignature; at some point over the last three or four years the process for applying for a passport from overseas has been “streamlined” and the main data is input into an online form. You can’t actually see what documents you require, the photo specifications, or any countersignatory requirements until AFTER you’ve paid for an application).
Among the many conditions and possibilities for transmitting British nationality to children born overseas, my son’s case is among the simplest. As he was born after 2006 it is only necessary for him to prove that one of his parents (i.e. me: his father) is a British citizen and that I was born in the UK. The proof of this is my birth certificate (and my British passport number on the form). The second piece of evidence is his own birth certificate showing my name as his father. (There is no general need for this sort of national to obtain a “Citizenship Certificate” or some other similar document as acquisition of British citizenship is automatic at birth).
When my son was born in 2013 I figured that registering his birth with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (and hence having his name entered into the General Register Offices) would be a good way of future-proofing proof of his citizenship. Should anything happen to me, his original Taiwanese birth certificates, the hospital where he was born, or hell, even the whole country, he’d have evidence of his British parentage. I had no reason to suspect that this line of reasoning was completely flawed and I must counsel anyone considering doing the same to just not bother. When I did it it was something like £65 but now it costs a whopping £150 plus £25 for the return of your documents and if you desperately need the birth certificate (I can’t see why you would) it’s another £50 (but wait a year and it’ll cost just £10).
For the record, the documents required for his birth registration were originals of:
- both Chinese and English versions of the child’s birth certificate
- the long version of the parent’s birth certificate showing the child’s grandparents’ details (for parents who were born in the UK)
- the parents’ marriage or civil partnership certificate (if applicable)
- evidence that the parents’ previous marriages or civil partnerships have ended (eg divorce or death certificates)
So back to the passport application.
It takes three weeks to get a passport in the UK - if there are no problems with the application. I figured it was worth paying the extra for premium (8-day) service as I’d lose several days in the UK getting photographs, getting the application countersigned, and getting in line for an appointment. Eventually, my interview date was 14 days before my departure date (i.e. right in the middle of my trip). I made the trip to Liverpool and saw an agent at around my scheduled time. The agent was satisfied with my application and commented on how well organized it was. Aside from the application form and photographs, I also offered my birth certificate, my son’s FCO birth certificate, his Taiwanese (hospital) birth certificate (English only) and my marriage certificate. Only the first two were retained - which is pretty much in line with my expectation from reading the application guidelines. The agent explicitly stated that the FCO birth certificate would be enough.
Naturally, it wasn’t enough. Two days later (a Friday of course), I received a phone call from the passport office telling me that they needed the Taiwanese hospital certificate. As if that wasn’t enough (having already offered it in person I wasn’t exactly happy at the news), the manager then got on the phone to tell me that the passport office also needed my son’s Household Registration transcript. Apparently, the reasons I was given for this were to prove that the child’s birth was registered within 60 days as required by Taiwanese law(!). And that the Passport Office no longer trusts FCO birth certificates because the FCO has been known to issue British birth certificates to people who can’t claim British nationality (!!!).
I tried telling the passport office that if they’re so knowledgable about Taiwanese law regarding registration times, they should also be aware that the Household Registration transcript doesn’t give them any information beyond what they already have. In terms of proving registration of birth, my son’s Taiwanese passport has a Taiwanese ID on it - and the only way to get an ID number is to be registered on the household registry. In terms of proving parentage, the transcript only “proves” the parentage of the Taiwanese parent; the foreign parent’s name is basically copied from the hospital birth certificate. Needless to say they were deaf to this line of reasoning.
The English language transcript of the HHR documentation usually takes a week or so to come through. It being a Friday when I received the news nothing could be done till the week after. My wife managed to get it done in two days and had it sent to the passport office but it still didn’t arrive in time to get my lad’s passport before I left the UK. Luckily, the passport office was more accommodating in this area and they asked me to return to Liverpool to pick up my son’s Taiwanese passport before they’d received the HHR transcript, then they sent the UK passport to my mother’s address (when the original application had been in my name). She received it three days after I left (total turnaround time: 17 days, additional costs aside from increased blood pressure during the initial phone call: extra trip to Liverpool, HHR transcript plus postage, postage fees for passport plus documents to be sent from the UK to Taiwan).