Somehow I ended up a citizen of three amazing countries. I’m writing this post to say thanks for that, and to note down the impressive UX of applying for a new UK passport.
As a citizen of Canada, Ireland and the UK, I’m lucky, and very conscious that there are many around the world who would sacrifice a lot, just to be a citizen of any one of these countries.
Growing up in troubled Northern Ireland, I didn’t always feel lucky. I’m sure admitting that even now offends some people. There was bitterness from both sides of the divide that I can still feel vividly decades later. It was hard for me to feel proud of being either Irish or British.
It has taken my lifetime to recognize the beautiful aspects of my origins and culture. I think a lot of people take time to piece their own jigsaw together. Yet, as peaceful as Northern Ireland miraculously is at the moment, there are still individuals within it who cling to the divide. Peace there is delicate, and vulnerable to the decisions made for Brexit.
A new UK passport
I made my own personal Brexit a long time ago, when I decided to make a life in Canada. And I feel that I belong here. I hope and wish that we can all experience a definite feeling of geographically, and culturally belonging. Although I think it might be time to move away from Ottawa, and think about the warmer West Coast of Canada. I love Ottawa, but the winters are really taking a toll on me now.
Since settling here in Canada, I’ve exclusively traveled with my Canadian passport. I am on my second edition now. I haven’t renewed my UK passport since it expired six years ago. Recently, a series of events led me to needing it again - related to my past employment, and future pension.
It used to be the case that I would have to visit the British Embassy in Ottawa. This time there was a new beta version of a passport application process that was entirely online.
Even the photograph could be taken at home against a white wall. When uploaded, the picture is tested for shadows, and cropped to the necessary size and shape. The directions were very clear, and didn’t feel overwhelming. Each step of the application explained what came next.
The process texted to remind me to mail the accompanying documents. Then texted me when they were received, when the passport was approved, when it was dispatched, when it arrived. I was immensely impressed at how well done the user experience was. It wasn’t glossy, or domineering. It was very well balanced, if anything it felt like it was on my side, clear and minimal.
Reconnecting to the UK version of me
My three passports feel like three chapters to some extent. Three periods of my life that began and ended. With my recent trips to London, and holding this UK passport in my hand, I am realizing that the three passports are ongoing, those identities are ongoing, and still alive too. They’re in my accent. They’re in the choices of music I listen to, the food I choose to eat, the books I read, the podcasts I listen to. The tea I drink!
In the past year I’ve been thinking more about my time in the UK, I suppose as Brexit unfolds. I traveled on the channel tunnel this year. It takes very little time to reach France from England. My time in the UK was when it was part of the EU. That’s how I prefer to think of the UK.
Next time I travel to the UK, I might enter with my new passport. Just to dig a bit deeper into how I feel about that part of my identity.