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UK passport application questions

By 2020 several UK government forms had been moved online, and the interface designers seemed to think it was a good idea to imitate the "E-commerce" websites that want to "funnel" the customer into buying an item, not revealing details like delivery costs until later in the process when the customer has already invested some effort. In the case of the government forms, this resulted in some questions not being visible until others have already been answered, which means you won't necessarily know in advance that you'll need data you might not have memorised, such as your parents' registered birthplaces. It's like playing an adventure game without a map---you never know what you're going to find in the next room (on the next page).

We wanted to have a "map" of all the questions before we started, so we treated the site in the same way as we would treat an E-commerce site using the same technique: if you don't want to buy something but still want to know all the details of the process---for example, to help you advise somebody else about suppliers---then the only way to make it tell you is to pretend to be a customer, go through all the steps, and cancel just before it actually takes your payment. Pretending to be a customer may seem a bit dishonest, but if we all know there's a "checkout" process before you commit, then I suppose it can be compared to walking into a physical shop and taking an item to the checkout when all you want to do is ask for more information about the item, rather than make an immediate purchase---if no staff are available other than at the checkout, then it's reasonable for the shop to expect that some members of the public will approach the checkout merely to ask for information, even if the checkout has a sign saying "pay here": it's not an agreement to buy, just as long as you don't remove the physical item from the premises unless you do buy it.

In the spirit of "taking something to the checkout just to get information", I registered a temporary email address for a "Mr Just Testing", and started the process of applying for Mr Testing's passport, just to find out what the whole process looks like. Since I stopped before the payment step, I do not believe this was making a false declaration, since it wasn't actually entered in as a paid-for application and therefore won't have come to human attention (with the possible exception of engineers debugging the system, and for them I wrote an explanation of what I was doing in various text boxes.

And so here, for your viewing pleasure, is what the complete process looked like as of December 2021 (my numbering might differ from theirs).

The URL implied the form was for passport renewal, but it could also be used to apply for a first passport.

  1. Do you live in the UK? (Yes)
  2. Date of birth
  3. Get a digital photograph. I selected "I'll take or upload a digital photograph" (they abbreviated it to "photo" but I'm not sure this is the expected linguistic register of a government)
  4. A probably ill-understood machine-trained "AI" checks the background and something about quality (although the "at least 50KB" rule failed this point on a 284KB picture); for me it also said "Poor: looks like your eyes are closed, looks like you're not facing the camera, tilted, colour problem" and "you can still submit your photo if you believe it should be accepted (for example there's a medical reason why you can't open your eyes)"
  5. Continue [anyway]
  6. Yes this photo[graph] meets the rules
  7. Explain why you'd like to use this photo[graph]
    This is not a real passport application. I would like to know what questions the system asks, in particular do I need to ask people to confirm my identity etc which will take time to organise in covid, and I cannot read those questions until I have uploaded a photograph so this is a placeholder just to get me past that question.
  8. Your reason must be no more than 250 characters long (and it doesn't count them for you)
    This is not a real application. I would like to know what questions the system asks, in particular do I need to ask people to confirm my identity etc which will take time to organise in covid. Placeholder picture so I can read other questions.
  9. Have you had a UK passport before? No: If you're 16 or older, you may need to have a passport interview (opens in new tab). We'll tell you if that happens and what you need to do.
  10. Do you have any passports from other countries? (Yes)
  11. Do you have a naturalisation or registration certificate? (Yes)
  12. Need to provide: Your details: naturalisation or registration certificate. Parents' details: name, date and place of birth, nationality, UK passport details (if this applies), date of marriage or civil partnership (if this applies).
  13. New passport details: Title (Mr), First and middle names (Just), Last name (Testing)
  14. Is this name on your naturalisation or registration certificate? (Yes)
  15. Have you ever used any other names? (No)
  16. Gender (Male)
  17. Were you born in the UK? (No)
  18. Select your country of birth
  19. Town of birth
  20. Certificate number, Date of issue
  21. Parents' details: Enter as many details as you can, giving parents' current names. Check the rules about parents (opens in new tab) if you're not sure whose details to provide.
  22. Mother or parent 1: First and middle names, Last name, Date of birth Day Month Year, or I can't provide these details
  23. Father or parent 2: First and middle names, Last name, Date of birth Day Month Year, or I can't provide these details
  24. Were they married or in a civil partnership? Yes (it may ask for the date this started)
  25. Town of birth, Country of birth, Nationality, Do they have a UK passport (mother, father)
  26. Home address + postcode
  27. Email, confirm (but no verification email was required)
  28. mobile phone (it did not accept the "reserved for fiction" 07700 900xxx range)
  29. choose email or text updates
  30. Standard 34-page passport or Frequent traveller 50-page passport
  31. If you're blind or visually impaired, we can add a braille sticker that reads passport, your name and passport expiry date. Select: I'm blind or visually impaired and I need a braille sticker
  32. All passport holders aged 12 and older must sign the new passport when they receive it. I understand and will sign my passport, or I can't sign my name
  33. Who is the passport for? Me or Someone else
  34. Check this application, Confirm your identity: You'll need to ask someone to check this photo[graph] to confirm your identity. The way they can do this has changed---they can do it online. They don't have to sign a printed photo[graph]. We'll tell you what you need to do after you've paid. [That's not so good for finding out beforehand! but there was a link to which seems likely to be it]
  35. Send the following: naturalisation or registration certificate, the passport used to enter the UK, any current or expired passports from other countries that haven't been cancelled.
  36. How should we return your documents? Choose how your documents are sent back to you. They won't be in the same envelope as your new passport. Secure delivery (costs extra) or Standard post (inclusive)
  37. Paying + declaration (I didn't)

Usual disclaimers apply---information might have changed since I last saw it, and my posting these notes does not make me legally responsible for any mistakes you make on any website: use my notes at your own risk.

All material © Silas S. Brown unless otherwise stated.