Controversy over new passport centre .jpg

Controversy over new passport centre


[email protected]

SINCE PORTUGAL and Spain amalgamated to create a single passport issuing centre at the British Consulate-General in Madrid on November 12, complaints have been made by Algarve residents and a there has been a great deal of confusion over the new system.

According to residents, this has been partly due to conflicting information from the consulates and embassies, which has resulted in added expense, and complaints have been made about the centre’s recommended courier service.

Bpack courier service is used to dispatch passports from the British Consulate-General in Madrid and the consulate website states: “Customers may send their applications to the British Consulate-General in Madrid by the courier of their choice – although we would suggest Bpack/Expresso 24 as we now offer our customers a very competitive two-way courier service rate”.

However, Bpack does not have a base of operations in Portugal and does not deliver to post boxes (apartados). Delivery must be to an address but many homes, especially in the Algarve, do not have easily identifiable addresses and even street names. Bpack’s website says that if a customer’s house is difficult to locate, delivery should be to a different address. A spokesperson for the courier service said: “We are doing our utmost to resolve any issues”.

Local resident Sandra Nicholson has had considerable trouble with the renewal of her son’s passport and when she contacted the embassy to complain about Bpack, she was told that the embassy was aware of the slow response of the courier company.

Non-user friendly

The embassy continues to recommend the courier service despite admitting that they are aware of the apparent lack of service from the company in Portugal.

A spokesperson for the British Embassy in Lisbon said: “We are aware that there have been some problems and they are being looked at”.

Mrs Nicholson said: “I could not believe that a British government department would allow such non-user-friendly changes to a perfectly good service”.

She added “I have now had personal service from Madrid” but, at the time of going to press, Mrs Nicholson had not received her son’s passport.

The embassy spokesperson said: “The new passport centre was created as part of an effort to centralise and restructure our services. The FCO (Foreign Commonwealth Office) is trying to streamline services to allow more focus on consular services at the embassies and consulates all over the world. It made sense to amalgamate Portugal and Spain into one region” for passport services.

Many are still unaware that under the new system, passport fees can be paid for using debit or credit cards and emergency passports can still be dealt with by the embassy but it is dependant on individual cases, said an embassy spokesperson.

Although the fledgling system does have many flaws for UK residents in Portugal it is hoped that these issues will soon be resolved.

Do you have a view on this story? Email: [email protected]